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Drones in cities: balancing big benefits against real dangers

By PATRICK STEPHENSON, BRUSSELS – The mainstream media may have missed it, but an extraordinary event recently occurred in aviation history.

From mid-March to early April, Swiss Post and drone developer Matternet completed 70 test flights of a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) between two hospitals over the city of Lugano, Switzerland. The drones flew a bit less than two kilometres, a bit beyond an operator’s line-of-sight, and carried laboratory samples. The flight was automated, although a remote pilot remained on stand-by in case of a malfunction.

Aviation observers believe these flights may have been among the world’s…

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EU leaders’ decisions augur big developments for European defence policy, with wider implications for other sectors as well

By PATRICK STEPHENSON and BROOKS TIGNER, BRUSSELS – After decades of procrastination, national leaders at their 22-23 June summit here took decisions that now set the stage for the EU’s entry into the defence field, though any talk of an imminent “European” army is fantasy. Nonetheless, important policy proposals by the European Commission were approved. The member states themselves finally agreed to finance their diverse battlegroups to boost the EU’s common security and defence policy (CSDP), for example, while approving plans – far more radical – to allow self-selected EU countries to shift into “permanent structured cooperation” (PESCO) in defence. But these were just some of the approved measures. An interesting coda to these decisions will be their impact on the EU’s...