Report on the 1st UDVeo-Workshop – What do we take?
“We are dealing with a completely new approach. There is still a lot that is unclear.” This, or something similar, is what the more than 150 participants of the first UDVeo workshop on 9 and 10 November 2021 heard again and again from almost all speakers. After 1 ½ days of inspiring presentations and discussions in the digital space, it became clear that many things are still unclear if U-space airspaces are to be designated in Germany in the future. Nevertheless, the participants were able to learn a lot about the U-space ecosystem, the designation of U-space airspaces and the various political and legal challenges that U-space brings with it. We all now have some first ideas on how the designation of U-space airspaces could work and what will be important. We gained insights on which further joint scientific and political work can build.
The presentations in the first part “The U-space Ecosystem and Art. 18 lit. f) of the U-space Regulation” made it clearer where the regulatory development of unmanned aviation and U-space in particular currently stands. The participants became aware that there are already several years of work behind the European and German regulations on the safe and efficient coordination of unmanned air traffic, and that the U-space ecosystem with Regulation (EU) 2021/664 (U-space Regulation) only represents the latest preliminary stage of these developments. Those who previously knew little about the legal framework obtained a first overview of the U-space ecosystem and the currently relevant regulations for unmanned aviation. Drone experts were pleased to hear, among other things, the EU Commission’s call (Nicolas Eertmans) for participation in the Drone Strategy 2.0, the ambitious plans of the German government (Dr. Jan Dirks, BMVI) and some first insights from EASA (Ken Engelstad) on the Applicable Means of Compliance and the Guidance Material concerning Art. 18 lit. f) of the U-space Regulation. Central message presented here: The coordination mechanism required by Art. 18 lit. f) of the U-space Regulation, with its combination of European and local levels, represents a completely new approach. EASA wants to manage this with a new, three-step procedure (plan, execute, review). Last but not least, the news from the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs (BMVI) (Rahel Jünemann) on the implementation of a “Digital Platform for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” and the European drone law in general in Germany was very informative for the audience. The most recent work of the Federal Office of Civil Aeronautics on UAS geographical zones and the BMVI’s initial thoughts on the formal implementation of the U-space Regulation were particularly compelling.
The presentations of the second part “The designation of U-space airspaces – design task and political issue” provided more clarity on the interests and dimensions that are affected and therefore have to be taken into account when designating U-space airspaces. First of all, a brief introduction (Dr. Judith Reuter, BWI) made it clear that designation is an interplay between security, the economy, the city/society and sovereign tasks as well as between numerous stakeholders. The coordination mechanism according to Art. 18 lit. f) of the U-space Regulation is an instrument for dealing with this issue. On the subject of security (Flemming Kilian, HSU), the participants then learned that U-space airspaces can be a security risk or a security gain. It depends on their concrete design. The U-space Regulation leaves the Member States a great deal of flexibility in this regard with its Airspace Risk Assessment of Art. 3 para. 1 and the designation criteria of its Annex I. Franziska Biermann from Hamburg’s Ministry of Economics and Innovation provided interesting information on the (desired) role of cities in the designation process. Hamburg, for example, is currently focusing on questions of gaining acceptance, promoting innovation and mobility, as well as the search for sensible urban drone applications. Finally, the participants learned from the DLR presentation (Prof. Dr. Volker Gollnick and Majed Swaid) that drone applications bring with them great commercial opportunities and potential, and that these will only be realised when flying beyond visual range is feasible. The extent of the economic opportunities and potential was demonstrated by instructive analyses of several use cases (inspection and logistics).
It became clearer with the presentations of the third part “The Designation of U-space Airspaces – Procedural Issues of the Participation of Authorities and Institutions” that known air law procedures for the designation of U-space airspaces are insufficient. Already with the introduction of this part (Prof. Dr. Margarete Schuler-Harms, HSU) it became apparent that this is a problem: The design of a procedure for the designation of U-space airspaces is, from the perspective of administrative law, an administrative task that is given to the Member States by Art. 18 lit. f) U-space Regulation. An initial examination of the tasks and an overview of possible procedural models gave the participants initially hope for a simple solution. However, with the second presentation by Malte Krumm (University of Potsdam) on administrative law, it quickly became clear that the possible models are nothing more than models. The participation of municipalities is constitutionally required – a central finding of this second lecture – which, however, cannot be sufficiently ensured by known (air law) procedures. Krumm therefore proposed a new instrument, a U-space Commission or a U-space Advisory Council. The third legal presentation (Dr. Franziska Heß, Baumann RAe) also ended with a concrete proposal. After Heß also noted the lack of comparability of known categories and outlined the central issues of U-space designation (responsibilities, legal nature, environmental impacts and opportunities for participation), she advocated the earliest possible involvement of municipalities, the local population and user groups and a high degree of transparency in the designation process.
Finally, the three parts were complemented by the interdisciplinary panel discussion on the question of what mechanism is needed to coordinate the participation of authorities and other entities in the designation of U-space airspaces. Participants learned about the state of research on acceptance in the field of unmanned aviation. According to Svante Kähler (HSU), the most important thing for citizens is where UAS fly and who is flying UAS. Alexandra Weißbach (HCU) agreed with this view, providing initial findings from the Medifly project in Hamburg. The state of research is the basis for a citizens’ survey currently being conducted in the Medifly project. The BMVI (Dr. Jan Dirks), in turn, was particularly interested in the idea of local U-space advisory councils. The goal of a designation procedure should be the closest possible cooperation between the municipalities, stakeholders, the responsible federal authorities and those affected. The public law experts on the podium (Dr. Franziska Heß and Malte Krumm) agreed with this. Their thoughts on the initiative rights of municipalities and airspace users made the audience curious. A right of initiative could ensure the necessary involvement of local stakeholders and at the same time speed up the designation of the first U-space airspaces. Finally, all agreed on the question posed by the moderator (Dr. Dana-Sophie Valentiner, HSU) about the conditions for a successful designation: The central point is to involve all stakeholders as early as possible in a communicative and transparent process.
For our research project UDVeo (and other research projects), we gained numerous insights in the 1 ½ days. The motto “information is the key” applies not only in U-space airspaces, but also in the designation of U-space airspaces. Interests, needs and stakeholders can only be included in political decision-making processes if they are known to the decision-makers. This requires an appropriate procedural design. We are still dealing with a completely new procedure. Through the exchange with and among various stakeholders, the 1st UDVeo workshop has provided the first and a substantial contribution to the discourse on the right procedural design and the understanding of U-spaces.
If you have any questions, please contact Flemming Kilian and Karlotta Victor (firstname.lastname@example.org)