Aviation/ Unmanned Aircraft Systems


The aviation sector is facing unprecedented challenges, including those resulting from public health, safety and environment issues. In all of them, technology, including AI, blockchain, 5G, IoT or AR/VR, provide important tools to overcome these challenges. Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS or commonly known as “drones”) are also increasingly becoming important instruments for different purposes, from transportation to monitoring and surveillance. Air traffic management challenges brought by the coordination of manned and unmanned aircraft will also rely on technology to find answers.    


The aviation sector has been one of the most hardly hit by Covid-19. The pandemic has brought various challenges but is also reshaping the sector and bringing new opportunities. For instance, while some airlines are facing serious financial problems and are resorting to State aid or undergoing restructuring processes, private aviation may experience an increase and low-cost carriers may even benefit from their resilient position on a post-covid-19 stage.

From a regulatory perspective, it is said that this is a turning point on safety matters that may only be compared to the changes brought by 9/11 on security matters. Various initiatives from ICAO, IATA, ACI, national civil aviation authorities (among many other entities) show a truly international effort to help the industry overcome these challenges. 

These new circumstances are also accelerating the advancements on certain areas that were already being developed. On the one hand, the sustainability and eco-friendliness of the sector, notably in relation to reduction of CO2 emissions and/or the use of electric or hybrid aircraft. On the other hand, the digitalization of the aviation sector, which means the implementation of new technologies, such as AI, blockchain, 5G, IoT or AR/VR.

The use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS” or “drones”) is another hot topic on the civil aviation sector. Drones can serve multiple purposes, considering the different types of stakeholders (e.g., individuals, companies or public authorities) at stake, such as healthcare deliveries, disaster relief, aerial photography, agriculture support, weather forecasting, border control surveillance or inspection of infrastructures. However, the increased use of UAS has created safety and security risks. As an example, UAS have created new concerns to air traffic management as their use must be coordinated with manned aircraft and other obstacles.

All the above bring the aviation/UAS sector to an era of digitalisation, automation and sustainability.


Forces driving the market


The need to rebuild passenger confidence to use commercial aviation requires the implementation of various regulatory measures, such as social distancing, hygiene and monitoring, for which technology, as well as Big Data analytics and tools, play a central role.


Robotics, artificial intelligence, 5G and the Internet of things are bringing new advancements and features to the sector, including with relation to UAS, contributing to increased safety and efficiency, whilst at the same time bringing cybersecurity challenges.


Environmental sustainability continues to be a core concern in the sector and one of the answers is the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). Electric/hybrid aircraft solutions may also play an important role on the sector’s sustainability goals in the future.


The operation of an increased number of unmanned aircraft systems creates safety and security concerns that must be tackled by specific regulations. Moreover, the coordination between manned and unmanned aircraft generates various challenges.

Reshaping of the aviation sector

The sector is undergoing major transformations, with some airlines facing difficulties whilst private aviation and some low-cost carriers demonstrating resilience.


Can we help you

VdA has detailed experience and expertise in all legal and regulatory matters associated with Tech Aviation. Our aviation, tech and industry insights allow us to provide 360.º legal services to organisations, governments, regulators, international entities and sector operators.

  • Airlines
  • Airport managers
  • MRO entities
  • Ground handling companies
  • Authorized training organizations (ATOs)
  • Developers and technology suppliers
  • R&D institutions
  • Incubators and accelerators
  • Investors
  • Insurers
  • Governments
  • Regulators

Our team of experts is delivering strategic and sophisticated legal advice to help our clients on their most challenging and promising projects. With a track-record of advising complex projects for leading companies in the sector as well as for the public sector, VdA services include:

Private sector:
  • Advising on regulatory and compliance issues relating to, among others, the implementation of technology for compliance with regulatory requirements imposed by applicable law and recommended by international best practices (including related to UAS matters)
  • Advising on data (personal and non-personal), cybersecurity and liability issues, as well as on IP protection, technology partnerships and transfers
  • Drafting and negotiating contracts for development, sale and purchase, provision of services, including terms of service and privacy policies for digital solutions
Public sector:
  • Drafting policies, strategies and laws for the implementation of technology in the sector
  • Advising on public contracts: administrative contracts, public tenders, pre-contractual proceedings
  • Negotiating partnerships and memoranda of understanding with state owned entities and the private sector
  • Providing capacity-building, training and awareness programmes

Our Tech Aviation Roadmap Product

The Digital Aviation Toolkit is a turnkey set of services that integrates several modules our clients can choose from in accordance with their needs.

  • R&D and Testing Package
  • Monitoring & Compliance Programme
  • Data & Cybersecurity Programme
  • Technology & IP Programme
  • UAS Package

For further information on this product, please send us an email.

Our team of experts

The Aviation/UAS ecosystem raises complex challenges that require a holistic and sophisticated legal analysis.

We help our clients meet their goals through a cross-sector team that brings lawyers from our Aerospace, ICT and Data & Cybersecurity Practice Areas. In addition, to deal with the complex challenges brought by the resort to technologies in the sector, our team further works routinely with our colleagues from Infrastructure & Mobility, Public Procurement, Competition, Banking & Finance, Insurance, Tax, Project Finance, IP, M&A, among others.


Specialised knowledge is required

The opportunities and challenges of the Aviation/UAS sector, including those arising from the deployment of emerging technologies, are complex. VdA is especially knowledgeable of the opportunities and challenges brought by the sector in Europe and in Africa.

VdA has been following the opportunities and challenges of the air transport sector in Europe, including those arising from the recent Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy – putting European transport on track for the future.

Back in 2015, “embracing a new era of innovation and digital technologies” was already one of the EU proposed actions as stated in “An Aviation Strategy for Europe”. Now, under the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, smart aviation includes, not only the effective completion and implementation of Single European Sky (SES), but also the will to shape the future by developing and validating new technologies and services, such as through the use of Artificial Intelligence. In fact, EASA recently published the “Artificial Intelligence Roadmap – A human-centric approach to AI in aviation”, which sets an ambitious AI deliverables roadmap.

Along with the abovementioned strategy, the “Digital European Sky” – which also matches the ambitions of the “European Green Deal” and the “Europe fit for the digital age” – is also a major initiative to be followed in the next years.

Furthermore, the operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“drones”) recently took a major step under the EU Regulations and in a near future the U-Space will be regulated and implemented.

VdA has a strong experience and know-how both on traditional aviation regulatory matters as well as on emerging technologies and is, therefore, well positioned to support its clients in these challenging times.

Air transport plays an essential role in the development of African economies. In this scope, the African Union has set an ambitious agenda for 2063, which includes the establishment of the Single African Air-Transport Market (SAATM) and the African Passport. Technology will certainly play an important role in achieving these goals.

In addition, following the international trends, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“drones”) are becoming an increasingly important commercial and humanitarian tool. Therefore, growth of the drone market is expected. 

VdA and VdA Legal Partners have been following African trends and are present in various African countries. This privileged experience and know-how allow us to deliver a unique service that combines international and local expertise.


Can we do it for you

Assisting you in devising the best approach and models for your business, project, product and service, in the light of legal and regulatory opportunities and constraints.

Assisting you in the development and setting-up of your business, project, product and service, drafting all required documentation, assisting in the negotiation of contracts, interacting with competent authorities, and accompanying you every step of the way.

Assisting you in addressing day-to-day business goals and challenges in the light of the applicable laws and regulations. We are here for you..

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