The end for volunteer rescue services' use of Micro UAVs in Europe!

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:

  1. UAS will have to be certified, just like a fullsize aircraft
  2. The NGO will need an operator's license, just like an airline
  3. The pilots will have to have some kind of pilot's license

This directly translates into the following problems:

  1. 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.
  2. Certified UAS will likely also need to be maintained similar to fullsize aviation standards, means mandatory maintenance by authorized facilities - again very expensive.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

Get active!

  • 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!

Views: 1926

Comment by MarcS on October 3, 2013 at 5:59am


why try to make exemptions for a special use (despite the effort it would create huge grey areas, which regulators will not like). My feeling is the differentiation hobby/non-hobby will be in the coming regulations. And its not too bad.

BUT: We should focus on getting reasonable regulation for small and micro UAS for non-hobby/professional use, which are NOT derived from manned aviation rules but fit to the scope and dangers imposed by these systems. There is the danger at the moment, rulemakers most of the time talk to the big companies which like the system you describe. At this stage all people looking at using small UAS in the future should try to bring that to the table.


That is my personal opinion, but I think it would help all users, including NGO´s and it would have better chances of getting a good result than several groups asking for special treatment.

Comment by Stefan Gofferje on October 3, 2013 at 6:11am

The main problem is that structure of the current drafts, which does not really distinguish between the size of UAS. The major distinction regarding applicability is recreational vs. professional. Thus, it would likely be much easier to convince the regulators to classify use in voluntary rescue work as "recreational" rather than professional, because as a matter of fact, voluntary rescue work already can be considered "recreational" or "hobby".

And to be honest, I do not mind the application of fullsize aviation standards to "real" professional users, especially media and other photography, in light of recent events (crashing of camera-ships into crowds).

Those areas should be strictly regulated, because obviously, when profit is involved, pilots become careless and take risk they shouldn't take.

Comment by Markus Järve on October 3, 2013 at 10:05am

Yes, and yes. I have to agree. 

Comment by Hugues on October 3, 2013 at 10:33am

stefan, I'm with you on that topic. Problem is how to intervene as a simple citizen on those matters ? We are not given a possibility to express our voices.

Have you thought maybe about launching an e-petition to be sent to the european commission ? (via for example ?)

Comment by Gary McCray on October 3, 2013 at 11:11am

As we have already seen here in the US where an attempt was made to provide information about flood victims in Colorado, the "Authority" immediately stepped in with a cease and desist demand although no persons or property would have been threatened by the operation and it was clearly providing valuable information.

Rules and regulations and most important chain of command seem always to be valued more than human life or common sense.

Comment by u4eake on October 3, 2013 at 12:08pm

Amen to that Gary.

Comment by HeliStorm on October 3, 2013 at 12:47pm
Gary. In the US disaster response has incident command system (ICS) and emergency support function (ESF) under the national response framework (NRF). Anyone wishing to help in disaster response must meet minimum levels of training. The feds freely provide training material. The reason this system came about is so everyone was on the same page in a response. If someone said today they wanted to go kill some Taliban in Afghanistan, the military would likely say thanks but no thanks. Maybe talk with a recruiter. No different in disaster response. Untrained freelancers are just not accepted. That said, I helped a church become official, for free, in less than month. Idea to final federal IDs. They have responded multiple times post-Sandy to the NY and NJ areas. It can be done.

My favorite example of why freelancers aren't welcome is when the actor Sean Penn had to have his butt hauled out of harms way after he almost literally got in above his head when he decided he could do better response than the government in Katrina. He took resources away from those in need by becoming an additonal victim.

Anyway, I think we as a community need to find our place in the effort. In fact, I am locally advocating for this.

I can't speak for Europe.
Comment by Mathew krawczun on October 3, 2013 at 2:47pm

thank you Helistorm for being one of the few people that have a level headed view on that. far to many people opn this and other sites can't get over their own personal feelings on the matter to see the whole picture.  

Comment by BluSky1 on October 3, 2013 at 2:57pm

The "Authority" in question has track record for believing it can rewrite the Constitution or assume the power of any federal agency in our government on a whim and its been sued so many times its pathetic.

What FEMA did in Katrina with the citizens weapons is a hang-able offense.

What FEMA did in Colorado and not letting those boys map the disaster undoubtedly killed more people by delaying rescue efforts and that blood is on FEMA hands.

Comment by Gary McCray on October 3, 2013 at 2:59pm

Nonesense, In this particular case, the people involved were not themselves in danger, were not endangering anyone else and were not Taking resources from or in any way in the way of any other (authorized) effort.

After disasters, many people volunteer and contribute their time and effort, some of the responses are "authorized" others are not.

In any case, the aerial survellance possibilities are new and are not in any way regulated by any body so long as they are non-commercial, (they are not prohibited from providing valuable information, only in profiting from it.)

And there are currently NO existing faciilites in the united states operating under any "Authorized" program, so by definition all possibility of assistance is "Not Authorized".

There is not "training" available for this in no small part because there are no "Authorized" trainers and also because they are far more interested in making sure they don't do anything they can be called out for regardless of its actual value.

The only authorized use of a drone in civil airspace so far was in conjunction with a Predator used to track the Yosemite fire.

The "Authorities" didn't need to shut this operation down and if they had any sense at all they would have simply coordinated with the people involved so that they could have been of the greatest use.

This was a standoff operation, not in harms way and to simply shut it down without consideration was reckless and may have cost lives.

If a resource is available in an emergency you do not simply reject it out of hand.


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