There is a lot of stuff in the web about the UAS or RPAS or however you want to call a Drone (here a list of different definitions for the same thing http://altigator.com/drone-uav-uas-rpa-or-rpas/ ) and here, I have tried to gather those starting information that might be useful for any further in-depht-study that you may feel necessary.

First of all let us define them: drones are aircraft without an human pilot on board, which are controlled from remote, normally an operator on the ground.

There are currently some two million Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, ranging from small “toys” to large military vehicles.
Just for the sake of comparison: the current number of manned aircraft is of about 200.000 (two hundred thousand).

JARUS

Most of the Civil Aviation Authorities are working to regulate the world of the drones but could be useful to know that there is already an international group of experts working in order to create a single set of technical, safety and operation requirements for all aspects linked to the safe operation of the drones, this group is called JARUS, standing for Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems. It is important to point out that JARUS develops recommended requirements which are not mandatory for the States.

JARUS as of January 2017: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Serbia, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States of America (FAA). EASA and Eurocontrol are contributing as well.

JARUS has a list of Focal Points for each Country and there are three key players (EASA, FAA and Eurocontrol) constituting the JARUS Leadership Team. If you want to learn more about JARUS, its Working Groups (WG) and what  you should follow this link: http://jarus-rpas.org (or download here the leaflet: jarus_who_we_are_what_we_do_4.0_version2).

JARUS has already published some Certification Specifications, FCL recommendations, Recommendations on the use of Controller Pilot data Link Communications and AMCs.

EASA

One of the JARUS key players is of course EASA, the European Agency for Safety in Aviation. The functioning of the EU statutory framework is not simple to understand but what it is worthy to know is that there is an EU Commission Regulation known as Basic Regulation which mandates the EASA to regulate only those RPAS with an operating mass of 150 Kg or more. (This is what it is true now with theBasic Regulation EC 216/2008).

Others UAS such as experimental or amateur build RPAS, military and non military governmental RPAS flights, civil RPAS as well as model aircraft are instead regulated by the individual member state of the European Union. (Toys, which are products to be used by children under 14 y.o., are instead subject to EC Directive 2009/48/EC). Here is a link to some of the national regulations: Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and UK.

The EU has not yet come out with a common regulation, there is a lot of fragmentation but an initial step has been already done steps aiming to regulate the UAS and the latest development (now in February 2017) is this “Prototype Regulation” (supported by an Explanatory Note) published the 22nd of August 2016 with the purpose to involve and share information with all the stakeholders in view of the ongoing negotiations about the Basic Regulation revision with the EU Parliament and the EU Council.

The above-mentioned Prototype Regulation wants to regulate operations of UASs taking in account the related risks and performances, It identifyes three UAS Categories: Open, Specific and Certified as below detailed but it does not regulate the operations of this latter (Certified).

  1. A low risk OPEN CATEGORY where no authorization is required to operate the drone, as long as forbidden or restricted drone areas. In this case the safety is ensured through compliance with the operational limitations, mass limitations, product safety requirements and a set of simple operational rules (perhaps provided along with the product). Subcategories are identified (ll with MTOM less than 25Kg)
  2. A medium risk SPECIFIC CATEGORY where an authorization is required by the NAA (National Aviation Authority) following a risk assessment done by the operator (EASA is supposed to provide with guidelines for such purpose). No MTOM limit found in this category.
  3. An high risk CERTIFIED CATEGORY where requirements are comparable with those relevant to manned aircraft. Therefore the EU NAAs are here supposed to oversight the issue of licenses, the approval of maintenance, operations and training, the ATM/ANS and aerodrome organizations, EASA will manage the design and the approval of foreign organization, as already done for the manned aircraft. This category is not regulated by the Prototype Regulation.

The Prototype Regulation wants to provide with clarifications and define what are the responsibilities of the EU Member States and what is the flexibility offered to them.

I have already seen in the Youtube some people (mostly from UK) upset for this upcoming regulation, perhaps would be useful to them knowing that EASA opened a channel for feedback. This is coming from their website:
Feedback from stakeholders is welcome using the dedicated mailbox UASPrototypeRule@easa.europa.eu by mid October. Considering the high interest of this topic, a large number of reactions is expected, and therefore EASA will not provide individual answers.

I leave few links here below for those of you who would like to deepen this matter.
And here is a video with some EASA recommendations: