The commercial use of unmanned aircraft in Austria

The EASA Basic Regulation (EASA-BR) and the implementation and delegation law files based thereon established uniform regulations for the operation of UAS in the EU for the first time, whereby different national provisions were largely displaced.

These union law requirements are implemented in Austria in the § 24j LFG (Luftfahrtgesetz [Aviation Act]) recently amended in 2021. However, the previous (national) regulations on UAS continue to apply and are partly in a tension relationship with the provisions of Union law.

However, European harmonised legislation proves to be rigid and impractical for commercial drone users in practice: For example, a UAS operation outside of the visibility of the pilot (so-called “BVLOS mode”) is practically only very limited and possible under strict conditions – with the specially issued operating permit of the Austro Control.

The new legal framework for the U-Space is intended to soften these rigid legal provisions and, in particular, to allow commercial drone users to perform more complex operations over longer distances. The new legal framework is part of the sustainable and smart mobility strategy designed to implement digital transformation in the EU transport system and make it more resilient to future crises.

For this purpose, the Member States are granted the opportunity by regulation to define a geographical area (including cross-border) in which the UAS operation may be carried out with the support of so-called “U-Space services”, which ensure automated control of traffic movements. The U-Space is therefore a traffic management concept that facilitates orderly integration of UAS into the existing air transport system and thus the safe use of a number of aircraft even over densely populated areas.

Although the development of the U-Space (and its legal implementation in Austria) is only at the beginning, a milestone for commercial UAS use was achieved with the new legal framework for the “U-Space”. It remains to be seen whether this opportunity will be used in Austria.

Autor: Raphael Höfer