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In the past, the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) was primarily restricted to military applications, the market has evolved and UAS use has become highly relevant for governments and private entities within the civil sector.
According to Companies and Markets.com, there are currently around 500 UAS manufactures globally, of which approximately a third are based in Europe hosts approximately one third. According to a study on Remotely Piloted Aviation Systems carried out by the European Commission, the industry is expected to create up to 150,000 European jobs by 2050.
The fact that over 1,000 operators have been granted operating licenses in Europe to date may be indicative of the level of commercial interest in this sector. Just by way of illustration, For example, there were around 86 approved operators in France as of December, 2012.
This has since increased to 431 by February, 2014. Global Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Market Economic assessment carried out by the EC also indicates that in the next 10 years civil UAS could be worth 10 per cent of the world’s aviation market amounting to €15 billion per year. This transition is predicted to have a significant impact on aviation within Europe and, because of this, it should not be taken lightly.
The problem remains, however, that there are lacunae in the current EU law and that there is currently no overarching EU law regulating UAS. In this context, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) v Robert Knowles case, heard earlier this year, is highly relevant. This case resulted in the first UK conviction for illegal use of a UAS. Its conclusions therefore can be used as a tool to help construct a comprehensive set of rules to regulate the law in the EU.