Amsterdam Drone Week: ‘Drone sector keeps growing despite Covid’

amsterdam drone week 2020

Due to Covid-19, the third edition of Amsterdam Drone Week took place virtually this month.

In the meantime, the drone industry itself does not seem to be affected by the pandemic, given the enormous investments in the sector in the first six months of 2020, according to the event organisers.

This quick growth means that legislation and regulations have difficulty keeping up. The call for cooperation between the business community, governments and knowledge institutes was therefore the most frequently heard during ADW Hybrid 2020.

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“The third edition of Amsterdam Drone Week thus once again proved to be an excellent thermometer for what is going on in the world of Unmanned Air Mobility,” said the organisers. “If the participants and the audience of more than 1,000 people from over 48 countries made one thing clear, it was the need for collaboration and the willingness to do so. Next year Amsterdam Drone Week will take place from 7 – 9 December 2021 in RAI Amsterdam.”

Drone market is moving fast
Patrick Ky, Executive Director of EASA, had a clear statement. “The first delivery with drones in Europe will take place in 2023 or 2024. In the same year we will see drone taxis in European cities. But they will still have a pilot on board. I don’t expect unmanned air taxis before 2025.”

Ky’s ambition is closely related to the enormous growth of the drone industry. According to Adina Iona Valean, European Commissioner for Transport, around EUR760 million of investment in drone start-ups has been recorded in the first six months of 2020 alone, 20 times more than for the whole of 2016. “Drones appear to be more resilient to crises than commercial aviation”, she said on Tuesday.

However, this disruptive growth also puts enormous pressure on the various Aviation Authorities around the globe. EASA (EU), FAA (USA) and CAAS (Singapore) all feel that pressure. Kevin Shum, Director General at CAAS said on Thursday: “We are moving too quick for regulators’ comfort, and too slow for the industry.”

During ADW Hybrid 2020 it became clear that all aviation authorities are struggling to adapt new laws and regulations to the daily changing practice. But also that they know how to respond to these developments faster than ever before. Ky reiterated that EASA was able to legislate within a year, which previously took the agency four to five years.

Harmonisation
The call for global harmonisation and standards is therefore growing ever greater. Simon Hocquard, Director General at Canso said: “Today, the aviation industry’s focus is firmly fixed on recovering from the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and rightly so. But it’s time for us to start shifting our attention to tomorrow and accelerating the collaboration and innovation that will enable us to create a safe and secure blueprint for all our future skies. A critical starting point for this is having a shared and aligned vision of what those skies will look like.”

Hocquard resonated with participants who presented several promising use cases. For example, Abeje Mersha, Professor of Unmanned Robotic Systems at Saxion University of Applied Sciences told the audience: “The biggest obstacles for autonomous flying drones are still the rules and regulations. Much of what is already possible is not allowed yet. But I am hopeful that when people see the usefulness of drone solutions, acceptance will increase and thus the regulations will be relaxed. It also means that the industry must prioritize and develop products that provide added value for the public.”

And to achieve that, during every hour of the total of 45 hours of panel discussions, showcases, workshops and presentations, the same heartfelt cry was heard: “As a sector, we will have to work together even more and even better. Not only with competitors, but also with governments, knowledge institutes and other regions in the world. Only then can we maintain the enormous growth rate.”

Cooperation
It is not without reason that fourteen European cities and regions, members of the UAM Initiative Cities Community (UIC2), presented their ‘Manifesto on the Multilevel Governance of the Urban Sky’, at Amsterdam Drone Week, acknowledging the role of cities and regions in the multilevel governance of U-Space and giving them a deciding role as competent authority, along with other pertinent stakeholders, in the governance of U-Space, or UAM.

During the Dutch programme on Wednesday the Dutch Drone Delta, a united cooperation of the Dutch drone sector, presented a manifesto to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, explicitly calling for more cooperation between industry and the government. The government replied that the ministry is working hard on an umbrella Drone Agenda for the whole of the Netherlands in cooperation with the Dutch drone industry.

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Joe Peskett

The author Joe Peskett

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