The federal government’s legislative initiative for aerial drones such as multicopters threatens to miss its target, experts emphasized at a hearing in the Bundestag on Monday. You are calling for key elements to be revised. The draft is intended to make the nationwide use of unmanned aerial vehicles in Germany “easier, faster and safer”. According to the experts, the opposite would be the case.
Dieter Moormann from the Institute for Flight System Dynamics at RWTH Aachen University criticized the project for a large number of prohibitions. These made it difficult to perform meaningful tasks such as environmental monitoring in nature reserves using drones. “Absolutely justified flights should suddenly be banned”, suggested Dario Manns from the drone service provider Fairfleet in the same notch. Power plants, power lines, bridges near airports or solar panels on the roof should no longer be controlled, although the drone is exactly the right inspection tool for this.
Pilots of unmanned flight systems are “not here to spy on their neighbors or fly up to bird nests,” assured Manns. There are black sheep everywhere, but they can hardly be deterred by extended bans. He missed future visions such as parcel delivery or swarm control in the draft. Manns fears the migration of investments and know-how.
Big helicopters are allowed, small drones are not
For Florian Holzapfel from the Chair of Flight System Dynamics at the Technical University of Munich, “small electric aircraft” are well suited for analyzing damage to infrastructure, even in protected areas. Heavy and loud equipment such as helicopters should run there without restriction. The legislature should therefore turn the tables and create criteria for what is allowed in which area along “higher goals” – in line with the EU regulation.
Felix Gottwald from the cockpit pilots’ association also advocated the introduction of more user rooms with clear criteria catalogs, requirements and airspace classes for drones in line with EU requirements. The connection to normal air traffic control can run via a central server and potential requirements stored there. Hamburg has designated a corresponding “U-Space” for the port. The pilot misses a plan for the shape of the drone economy in ten years.
Please not 16 authorities
Gottwald and Holzapfel urged the MPs to create a central federal agency for the approval of special drone flights. 16 state authorities are ineffective. When defining geographic areas and usage scenarios, however, the states should have a say, said Gottwald.
The President of the German Aero Club, Stefan Klett, expressed doubts about the conformity of the planned provisions with the EU regulation. He advocated making model flying directly responsible and liable. His association has already developed standards for this. Klett sharply criticized the fact that North Rhine-Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt had already introduced “total overflight bans” in wide zones without indicating these technically via suitable interfaces.
Self-regulation required for amateur pilots
Hans Schwägerl, President of the German Model Aviation Association, also advocated extensive self-regulation by amateur pilots, for example. Over 70,000 members have already provided evidence of knowledge, while others only allowed their planes to fly on approved terrain. Flight lanes from airports are avoided because nobody wants to risk their model aircraft.
The hope that drones could make a contribution to the traffic turnaround questioned Thomas Kirschstein from the logistics chair at the University of Halle-Wittenberg. According to him, the aircraft do not lead to energy-efficient delivery, at least in inner-city areas. Electrified small vans offer much greater potential to save greenhouse gases. The attraction of renamed systems would rather be the reduction in personnel costs.
What are air taxis really good for?
Air taxis are also often advertised with added values such as environmental friendliness, traffic relief, congestion reduction and shorter travel times, added Robin Kellermann, head of the “Sky Limits” project at TU Berlin. But there is no scientific evidence for this. Above all, the vertical take-off and landing, which are usually provided, are energy-intensive.
In addition, it should be clarified how much energy flows into the production of required batteries and how many resources their disposal devours. Volocopters, Lilium jets & Co. would only be faster if there were as many landing and take-off ports as there were stations in the S-Bahn network.