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BRUSSELS: June 16, 2017. The European Commission says commercial drones flying in a 'U-Space' under 150 meters from the ground will be operate in the EU by 2019.

A vision paper by the Single European Sky Air traffic management Research Joint Undertaking says the U-Space should include three basic aspects:

Swiss Post DroneSafety at low altitude levels will be just as good as that for traditional manned aviation. The concept is to develop a system similar to that of Air Traffic Management for manned aviation.

An automated system will provide information for highly automated or autonomous drones to fly safely and avoid obstacles or collisions.

Basic services like registration, e-identification and geo-fencing* will be up and running by 2019. However, further U-Space services and their corresponding standards will need to be developed in the future, it says.

"Drones mean innovation, new services for citizens, new business models and a huge potential for economic growth," said EU Commissioner for transport Violeta Bulc. "The EU needs to take a leading role worldwide in developing the right framework for this market to flourish, by unleashing the benefits for key economic sectors."

Bulc's department says the market is expected to grow "substantially" with estimates varying between €10 billion and €127 billion a year from the use of drones for delivery services, data collection, infrastructure inspections, precision agriculture, transportation and logistics.

The Commission cites a 2015 report that forecasts the global drone market by 2020 to have grown 42 percent in precision agriculture, 26 percent in media and entertainment, 36 percent in infrastructure inspection, and by 30 percent for leisure activities.

(*Geo fencing creates a virtual geographic boundary around an area using GPS or RFID technology and enables software to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or leaves the area.)

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