New EU-wide rules for drones from 2021

New rules have been in the works for a long time now. They are set to apply throughout the European Union, including the United Kingdom and the other member states of the European Aviation Safety Agency EASA (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein) and are intended to harmonize the airspace in Europe. In June 2019 these rules were finally announced and they must be complied with from 31 December 2020. Originally, the new UAV regulation was to apply from July 2020, but the start date has been postponed by half a year due to the COVID-19 crisis.

In the following I would like to give you an overview of the new rules that are coming, but please note that not all details have been clarified yet. The authorities have one year to implement the regulations. This includes the establishment of new infrastructure (e.g. for registrations) and the evaluation of risks in unmanned aviation.

The new EU regulations follow a risk-based approach. Different requirements apply depending on the risk posed by a drone flight. No distinction is made between private and commercial flights.

To understand the EU regulations, we first have to explain two newly introduced terms:

  • Classes: With the CE classes, drones will in the future be subdivided according to their technical characteristics. There are the classes C0, C1, C2, C3, and C4. In the future, drones must be clearly marked with the appropriate class by the manufacturers. Here you will find a more detailed explanation of the drone classes and the transitional provisions for drones without classification.
  • Categories: Flight maneuvers will in the future be divided into three categories (Open, Specific, and Certified) based on their risk. For the Open category, there are three subcategories: A1, A2, and A3.

For most hobby pilots, the Open category will play the most important role. You can read in these following articles what you need to know for each category :

Europe-wide registration obligation coming

In the future, drone pilots will have to register if a certain ascent weight is reached or if the aircraft is equipped with a sensor to record personal data (e.g. a drone with a camera) and if the drone does not comply with the EU Toy Safety Directive.

You can find more information known so far in our article about registering a drone.

What countries can decide for themselves

Some aspects are not regulated in detail by the EU regulation and leave it up to the individual countries to decide how to structure them, including:

  • Mandatory insurance: Insurance for the drone is mandatory from a weight of 20 kilograms. Other regulations are the responsibility of the individual countries. In Germany, for example, operators must also have liability insurance for lighter drones.
  • Prohibited zones: The states can determine where drones may be flown and where restrictions apply (e.g. nature reserves, airports). However, there is a uniform rule that they must make such data available in the same format, which makes it easier to handle.
  • Minimum age: The minimum age for the Open Category is normally 16 years, a lower age is possible.
  • Own regulations: There are countries where rules already apply that do not exist in others. For example, in Sweden and Croatia permits for aerial photography are required. Such regulations can still exist with the EU regulation.

Summary of new EU regulations 2020/2021

With the new rules you have to clarify at least two fundamental things to determine which rules apply to you: 1) Which class does your drone belong to and 2.) how close you want to get to uninvolved people. Only then will it become clear which requirements you will have to fulfill in the future. Whether these changes will lead to a better understanding of the rules among copter pilots is more than questionable.

I also think it is a pity that every member state in the EU will be able to pass its own laws in the future. For example, each member state is free to set a minimum age. Surely the new EU rules will lead to a standardization of the regulations, but one cannot trust that in every European country the same rules will apply 100%. Thorough preparation for trips abroad will therefore continue to be necessary in the future.

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Are there any questions left unanswered? Then write to us in the comments and we will try to help you as much as possible.

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  • David | 15.01.2021

    Have you seen anything so far about whether a visitor from the US will be able to fly their drone in Europe? Reading through the new rules it says you must register in your own country but I assume this means a EU country. Will be using the Mini 2 (w/camera) for very short flights all well under 120m.

    • Drone Traveller Team | 16.01.2021

      Hi David,
      we have some info for non-EU residents in this article: To summarize: Visitors need to register in the first EU country they visit and follow the steps just like residents. Your registration will be valid in all other EU countries. Please be aware that, because the Mini 2 has a camera, you will have to register it, even though it is under 250 grams. Also, please learn about the requirements for you in the country you visit. In Germany, drones under 250 grams and with a maximum speed up to 19 m/s do not require a license if you stay within the rules of the Open category. But you will need liability insurance. Each country can handle this differently, which can be especially confusing for tourists who might visit more than one country.

  • Lee | 25.01.2021

    Any idea where one registers in Portugal or indeed any European country?

    The only one I can find in registering in the UK – not sure of this then applies in Europe?

    Any idea where one can do the A2 CofC in Europe?

    Was previously registered with AAN in Portugal – but I assume that no longer applies ?

  • Ralph Edwards | 17.04.2021

    I have bought a FIMI x8 se drone here in Italy I am a resident I live on lake bolsena and the area here is shown on the d-flight site which states you can’t fly when restrictions are in place now the map shows red but does that mean restrictions are in place now or just show it as a restricted area

    • Drone Traveller Team | 25.04.2021

      Hi Ralph,
      it seems like you can find more information on this area by consulting the AIP. When you click on the area on D-Flight, you can get further information by clicking on the “i” in the box at the bottom. A new box will open with a link to the AIP (you apparently have to register to see those).

  • Danny | 12.09.2021

    Hi! I will be visiting Denmark, Italy, Greece and Portugal (as a non-EU tourist).

    1. Is there any way to get my drone (Mavic Air 2) or myself registered as the drone operator in these countries?

    And what is the link to registration (as a non-EU tourist)?

    2. Do I need to take an exam and pay a fee for registration?

    If yes, what is the link to the exam and fee payment?

    • Drone Traveller Team | 14.09.2021

      Hi Danny,
      You have to register as an operator only in the first country you will use your drone in. Every country uses its own registration platform and has its own fee system. As we don’t know which one you will visit first, we can only point you to the country articles where we have included the links to the registration and examination platforms. Please choose the country here:
      Make sure you also read about the drone rules in every country you will visit; Greece and Portugal, in particular, require additional permits.
      As your Mavic Air 2 weighs more than 500 grams, you will need to take an exam to get a license, either for subcategory A3 or A2. It depends on where you want to fly. The A3 exam can be done online. Read about the subcategories to determine which license you will need here: You can get the license in any EU country, it doesn’t have to be the one you visit first.

  • Reginald | 22.09.2022


    I’m transiting in France this October before going to UK.

    I will be in possession of a small drone ( DJI Spark ) when I enter and leave France. I dont have plans to use, fly or operate my drone while in France.

    Given this circumstance that I’m not flying my drone in France, do I still need to register my drone ?

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