Drone Laws in Germany
Last update on 01.10.2021 | 20 Kommentare
If you want to use a drone in Germany, you should familiarize yourself precisely with the legal requirements. In this article we would like to show you which rules apply to copter pilots in Germany.
The EU Drone Regulation has been in force in Germany since December 31, 2020. This has largely harmonized the rules for remote pilots. You only have to register as an operator in one European country and your EU drone license is also recognized across countries. This is some relief for travelers. However, the participating countries can make some regulations independently, which is why it is always worthwhile to find out about the applicable law in the respective country. In Germany, too, there are some special things to consider in the implementation of the new drone laws.
If you want to register in Germany, you can do so via this link.
Overview of the European rules that apply in Germany
In Germany, the regulations of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) apply. The following is a summary of the key facts. For a complete overview, read our article on the new EU drone regulation.
National peculiarities in Germany
Each country can define certain aspects of its drone regulations. For Germany, the following requirements apply in addition to the European regulations.
Futher rules for drone pilots in Germany
The compulsory insurance is regulated in Germany in the Aviation Act and has not yet changed with the EU regulation. That means you have to insure your drone flights with liability insurance. The sum insured for accidents with aircraft under 500 kilograms, which include drones, is set at 750,000 special drawing rights, which corresponds to around 900,000 euros (as of the end of February 2021). Since the exchange rate can change, you are on the safe side with 1 million euros or more. We have put together suitable drone insurance policies in this separate article.
Note that you have to have your insurance certificate with you when you use your drone!
Almost everyone who wants to fly a drone now needs a license. In the Open Category, there is the EU competence certificate A1 / A3 and the EU remote pilot certificate A2. In Germany, the Luftfahrt-Bundesamt offers online training and the exam for A1 / A3 certification. You can find the German exam platform here. So far, the training and the test for this “small” driver’s license have cost nothing. However, it can be assumed that a fee will be charged in the future. This is already the case in other countries.
The Luftfahrt-Bundesamt has named test centers for the A2 certificate. You can find a list here.
If you already have an old certificate of knowledge according to §21d of the air traffic regulations, you can partially continue to use it in Germany until 2022. General decrees of the federal states also remain valid during this period.
Safety distances and flight bans
In addition to the rules valid throughout Europe, the individual member states can further restrict the operation of drones, as long as these rules do not contradict the European requirements. In Germany, we find the national regulations primarily in the Luftverkehrsordnung (Air Traffic Regulations).
It mainly regulates two sets of issues:
- What are the responsibilities of the individual authorities?
- Which areas may I fly over as a UAV pilot with a drone and under which conditions?
Of course, the second topic is the most exciting: Where am I allowed to fly?
And it is precisely here that there has been a nice paradigm shift as part of the new regulation. Because the new regulation text now states:
The use of airspace by unmanned aerial vehicles is free, provided […]Excerpt from §21h para. 1 Luftverkehrsordnung of June 2021.
So it is now clearly stated in a legal text that as a remote pilot you are allowed to let your drone fly.
But of course, it is not quite that simple. There are still some areas where we are not allowed to fly or only with certain restrictions. But even here there was an improvement because the operation of drones in sensitive areas was previously only possible with a permit from a state aviation authority. These authorities then issued a permit that came with ancillary provisions. These ancillary provisions have now basically found their way directly into the German Air Traffic Regulations, so that from now on it is no longer mandatory to obtain a permit (and thus pay a fee) for the same type of flight.
But which areas are we actually talking about here?
Restricted operations in geographical areas
In the context of the European regulations, we are talking about geographical areas. So, these are areas where the operation of a drone is not allowed or only allowed under certain conditions. In the future, these geographic areas will also be made visible on an official map by the federal government.
Landing fields and glider sites
Drones can be operated within 1.5 km of the outer boundary of landing fields and glider sites if a permit has been issued by the relevant state aviation authority in the Specific Category or if approval has been obtained from the air supervisory authority, air traffic control, or the airfield operator.
To fly a drone in the vicinity of airports, a permit for the Specific Category from the state aviation authority is required. This regulation applies at a lateral distance of one kilometer from the outer boundary of the airport and from the centerline of the runway – extended by 5 km each.
Control zones around airports
There are so-called control zones around airports. In these areas, all air traffic is controlled by the tower. If you want to launch a drone here, you need an air traffic control clearance. Attention: This regulation applies in addition to the rules for airports mentioned above!
Residential properties are places of retreat and therefore enjoy special protection by law. Nevertheless, the use of drones is permitted here if one of the following conditions is met:
- Owner or authorized person has consented to overflight
- Drone weighs less than 250 grams and does not have a camera or other sensors for recording personal data
- Overflight takes place at an altitude of 100 m; and:
- Overflight is required for a legitimate purpose,
- other public areas are not available
- the consent of the persons concerned cannot be obtained in a reasonable manner
- all precautions are taken to avoid invasion of privacy
- operation takes place between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.
- noise protection guidelines are complied with
The German regulation on residential properties does not override the requirements that apply to residential properties in the Open Category under the European regulations. Thus, you need an EU remote pilot certificate if you want to take off with drones weighing 500 grams or more over residential properties. From 2023, the weight limit will be 250 grams.
Railroads, federal trunk roads and federal waterways
If you want to launch your drone near major transportation routes, you have three options:
- You obtain a Specific Category Permit from the state aviation authority. In the required risk assessment, you include the risk of flying over these traffic routes.
- The competent authority or the operator of the facility approves the overflight.
- You maintain a minimum horizontal distance of ten meters and do not fly higher than the horizontal distance to the traffic route (1:1 rule).
Regardless of the three points mentioned above, you may also cross federal waterways by the shortest route if you fly at an altitude of at least 100 meters and do not fly over ships and ship facilities such as locks.
The generic term federal trunk roads stands for the major transport routes: highways (Autobahn) and federal roads (Bundesstraße).
Protected areas under nature conservation law
In order to protect nature, there are various protected areas where you are only allowed to fly a drone under certain conditions. These areas include nature reserves, national parks, FFH areas and bird sanctuaries. Here you are allowed to fly if you have obtained the consent of the responsible nature conservation authority or if the local state law provides other rules for the operation of drones.
In addition, an overflight (no takeoff!) of nature reserves, special areas of conservation (FFH areas), and bird sanctuaries is possible if …
- the overflight is not for sport or recreation.
- a minimum flight altitude of 100 meters is maintained.
- you as a pilot know the protection purpose of the area and take this appropriately into account during your operation.
- the overflight is unavoidable for the operational purpose.
This regulation is therefore clearly aimed at commercial purposes (e.g. inspection flights) and does not apply to national parks!
Outdoor swimming pools and beaches
The overflight of open-air swimming pools and bathing beaches is only allowed outside the operating or bathing hours. Please also note the restrictions of the European rules, which stipulate a minimum distance of 150 meters to recreational areas in subcategory A3.
Other geographical areas
There are a number of other geographical areas where you may only fly with the permission of the relevant operator or responsible body. These geographic areas include:
- Accident sites, operational sites of authorities and organizations with security tasks, as well as mobile facilities and troops of the armed forces. The contact person is the operations manager
- Industrial facilities
- correctional facilities/prisons and facilities of the Maßregelvollzugs (correctional facility for persons with special needs)
- facilities and troops of the German armed forces as well as other military facilities and organizations
- facilities for centralized power generation and distribution (power plants, wind turbines, substations, etc.)
- facilities in which activities requiring a permit at protection level 4 in accordance with the Biological Substances Ordinance are carried out (institutes in Hamburg, Berlin, Marburg and on the island of Riems)
- Properties of federal and state constitutional bodies as well as upper and supreme federal and state authorities
- Diplomatic and consular representations (embassies)
- International organizations as defined by international law (UN, EU, NATO, etc.)
- Properties of the police and other security authorities
If the corresponding permission is not available, you must maintain a horizontal distance of 100 meters.
To find out where the corresponding geographical areas are, you can use various apps. Unfortunately, there is no official map material, so you can never rely 100% on the information. A very good map that you can also access on the computer is offered by Flynex. In addition to the web interface, a smartphone app is also available. Another alternative is the smartphone app from Droniq, but we can’t work well with it.
From whom do I get a permit?
If for some reason you cannot cope with the restrictions described above, the state aviation authority responsible for the planned area of operation can issue you a permit. The state aviation authorities are also responsible for issuing permits for the Specific Category. Which authority you need to contact depends on the reason why you need a permit.
Permit to operate in a geographical area:
Aviation authority in which the area is located
Permission to operate in the Specific Category:
Aviation authority in the state where you have your residence/primary place of business.
As a remote pilot, you are required to avoid manned aircraft and unmanned free balloons.
Germany has strict privacy laws which must also be observed by drone pilots. In addition, the European Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) affects the way you can collect and store people’s data. These laws make it very difficult to fly over and capture images of residential neighborhoods without infringing on the rights of the residents.
You should try to not capture images which contain people’s data, like their name, address, appearance or even license plates. If you want to take photos or videos of people or objects which might identify them, please ask for permission first. You are also not allowed to publish any photos or videos of people without their consent unless certain criteria are met.
Do not fly over places that are normally hidden from view. This could even be in nature at lakes or parks if people have taken measures so that they are not seen by others.
We have researched the listed drone regulations for Germany to the best of our knowledge. We cannot guarantee the correctness of the information. If you want to be on the safe side, contact the competent aviation authority. Alternatively, you can also ask the embassy in your country for further information about the regulations. Please leave us a comment when you receive news and/or gain experience with your copter in Germany!