I have recently been quite active regarding the use of Micro UAVs in Search and Rescue here in Finland and I also have been in contact with the EU Commission on this matter.
Here in Finland - as in many European countries - Search and Rescue missions are carried out under the authority of the police but mainly by volunteer organizations, such as the Red Cross, The National Association for Volunteer Rescue Services (VaPePa), Rescue Dog organizations and the Finnish Lifeboat Institution. Recently, inside some of the involved NGOs, the usage of Micro UAVs has been subject of discussion and evaluation, based on the obvious advantages.
While the current EU regulatory drafts contain reasonable exemptions for hobby/recreational use, as of now, NGOs will be classified as professional users. That would mean:
- UAS will have to be certified, just like a fullsize aircraft
- The NGO will need an operator's license, just like an airline
- The pilots will have to have some kind of pilot's license
This directly translates into the following problems:
- Only commercially produced UAS can be used. Commercial UAS are already now very expensive. Once they need to be certified, they will become even more expensive due to increased requirements for the manufacturers and the simple fact that the manufacturers can determine the prices by phantasy as there is no cheaper competition any more.
- Certified UAS will likely also need to be maintained similar to fullsize aviation standards, means mandatory maintenance by authorized facilities - again very expensive.
- Getting an operator's license will produce more costs and includes the need for determining personnel which holds the responsibility. A very tedious, if not impossible, task for an organization based on volunteers.
- Finding volunteers which are willing to spend the time and the money to acquire a pilot's license will be hard. Of course, the NGO could offer to pay the bill but what if the member stops volunteering? People move for new jobs and might stop working as a volunteer because the have less time. Maybe they expect children or start building a house. Also, for volunteer-based work, you always need a broad base of qualified people. The volunteer might be on vacation or on a business trip or in an important project where the employer does not permit the volunteer to respond to an alarm.
These regulatory drafts which classify volunteer-based NGOs as professional users will very likely effectively kill the usage of Micro UAVs by volunteer rescue organizations in Europe.
I already started some work on this matter, but of course, one man alone can hardly move anything.
Therefore, I call on everybody in Europe who
- Is involved in any type of voluntary rescue organization or other volunteer-based NGO
- Or is involved in any way in R/C-, FPV- or hobby UAV activities
- Or simply is a concerned citizen who does not want to see the application of this exiting new technology for saving lives killed by ignorant rulemakers
- Bring those topics up in your local organizations!
- Push your local organization heads to bring the topic to the national organizations!
- If you are in the board of a local or national volunteer rescue organization, contact the boards in your neighboring countries!
We urgently need an international European alliance of volunteer rescue organizations and other NGOs to make ourself heard in the regulatory bodies and try to make sure that the same exempts are included for voluntary rescue work as for recreational/hobby use!