Germany is an especially beautiful part of Europe. With its famous and infamous place in world events, the country is steeped in history. Germany is also well known for its classic regional architecture and its lovely rolling, rocky mountains and grassy hillsides.
Especially considering the fact that many Americans have family in Germany, there are numerous reasons why we might want to bring a drone equipped with a camera to capture the sheer beauty of the region.
The question is, are travelers allowed to bring drones to Germany?
Fortunately, for anyone fond of the culture, history, and natural beauty of the area, the answer is Yes. Travelers are allowed to bring drones to Germany.
But, as usual, there are rules, regulations, and recommendations to which travelers are strongly encouraged to adhere.
UAS rules for flying drones in Germany
According to the German Federal Aviation Office (FAO), drones are allowed to be brought to and flown in Germany. However, drone usage is subject to FAO and European Union Safety Agency EASA regulations.
Beginning on December 31, 2020, Germany’s national rules governing the use of drones were replaced by a common set of regulations for Europe as a whole.
So, the good news here is, if you know the drone rules for Germany, then you know the rules for most, if not all, European countries.
This reform was done to promote a harmonious market for drones across Europe.
It means that once a drone operator has received the authorization he or she needs to run this kind of equipment in a specific way in one European nation, they can continue to do so all across Europe.
This is great news to anyone traveling, studying, or photographing European countries. It is a boon to students, hobbyists, and explicitly to videographers and filmmakers working in the area.
The legal framework for the system categorizes drone use into three categories according to the risks associated with certain types of use.
These categories are:
1. Open category
This category is for use types that are held to present a low level of risk. It applies to the use of drones weighing 25kg (55.1 pounds) and under at the moment of takeoff.
Drone use falling in this category may only be operated within a direct line of sight to and from the pilot. That means you must be able to see the drone directly with the naked eye, not via a wireless camera system or using spotters.
Drone pilots operating in this category may fly their devices no higher than 400 feet. Drones are not permitted to drop any articles, materials, or substances. Drones may not carry any dangerous goods.
Pilots in this category must be at least 16 years old and have read the user manual for their drones.
2. Specific category
This is considered a moderate risk category. Specific drone use includes flight outside the pilot’s direct line of sight as well as drones exceeding 25kg. Special exceptions can be made, but they must be applied for.
Drone use in this category may fly over uninvolved people, but such fly-overs should be avoided whenever possible.
Persons may consent to be flown over, and fly-overs can be accidental. But persistent flying over uninvolved persons risks legal ramifications.
Pilots in this category must be at least 16 years old, have read their user manual, have taken online training, and pass a basic exam.
They must also have performed self-practical tests and completed an A2 Theoretical Test.
3. Certified category
This category covers drone use which presents specific, clear potential dangers, such as the use of large drones capable of carrying human passengers. Uses like this require the pilot to carry a certification.
Drone operation in this category precludes flight within 30 meters of uninvolved persons.
Pilots in this category must also be at least 16 years old, have read the user manual, have taken online training, and have passed a basic exam. They also need to have performed self-practical tests and to have completed the A2 Theoretical Test.
Regulations for foreign operators
The rules and categories described above are for citizens of European countries. Americans traveling into Europe who intend to perform drone operations are required to observe and adhere to the rules listed below.
The regulations for foreign operators apply to citizens of European nations traveling to other European nations who operate drones there. They differ from the rules for Non-EU residents, which are listed below.
- Register as a drone operator and demonstrate awareness of the regulations of each of the above categories.
- After registration, a unique Operator Registration number sticker will be issued. This number must be affixed to the drone in a secure and readily visible way.
- No Fly Zones are to be avoided. These include airports and heliports. A list of no-fly zones should be available on the government website for the country in which you intend to operate.
- Foreign drone pilots must register in the first European country into which they bring their drones. After that, the pilot will maintain and use the same registration number in every European country where he or she flies their drone.
- A fee must be paid in order to complete a successful registration. This fee may vary from one European country to the next.
Rules for non-European drone operators
Separate from the rules for the residents and citizens of European countries travailing to other European countries, the rules for non-European drone pilots apply to everyone else who wishes to legally fly any drone aircraft in any European nation, including Germany.
- Obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate issued from the first European country into which the applicant brings a drone.
- Obtain an A1 or A3 certificate by registering in any recognized online Remote Pilot School. This certification will allow the foreign pilot to operate drones according to the Open category of risk described above.
- Passing grades include a score of 75% or better. Would-be foreign remote pilots have three tries to pass the exam.
- Certificates issued to foreign pilots who have passed the exam will be recognized as valid for five years after the issue date.
- Foreign pilots must have their certification on their person during drone flights. It must be on your person and be presented to authorities on request.
Germany’s drone regulations
Unfortunately, it does get a bit more complicated when you bring a drone to Germany as opposed to another European country.
Germany has its own regulation in addition to the drone rules described above, as does every other European country.
The German rules are as follows:
- Pilots must have a valid insurance certificate to operate drones weighing 500 grams (1.1 pounds) or more.
- Drones weighing 250 grams (.55 pounds) or more must be labeled with a badge indicating that it has passed a fire safety inspection. This badge must also display the name and home address of the operator or pilot.
- Drone pilots are required to be mindful of the property of others. Note: this rule is vague so it can be applied to any instance where a lack of care is demonstrated by a drone pilot. Therefore, caution is always recommended.
- The transmission of footage and photos taken by a drone may be done only with the permission of the persons appearing in said material or those who own property that has been filmed. In short, people and property cannot be recorded and shared without consent.
- Flights may not exceed 400 feet in altitude.
- The pilot must maintain a direct line of sight to the drone while it is in operation.
Drones belonging to foreign pilots must remain 30 meters distant or more from people, vehicles, and buildings not involved in the flight.
Note: The rules are not clear whether this can be 30 feet above people, vehicles, and buildings within the 400ft altitude limit. However, it is advisable that altitude is not considered to be part of the equation.
In other words, we recommend not flying a drone over people, vehicles, and buildings at any altitude. It is best to consider the 30-foot barrier to extend outward, and not to form a bubble.
Drones may only be flown during daylight hours in clear and favorable weather conditions.
Drone pilot registration in Germany
The European Regulation (EU) 2019/947 states that registration is mandatory for drone operators. Any time a drone is in flight, a registered person is required to be at the controls, and no one else.
The person registered to use a specific drone is responsible for any harm or damage done by or with the drone. He or she will bear any and all responsibility for the drone while it is in use.
There have been instances where a drone has been taken and used by persons close to or known to the pilot.
In such cases, if the owner/registered pilot allows the drone to be handled and flown by a non-registered person, then the pilot is in violation of the regulations.
He or she will also be held responsible for any damage or harm that results from the unsanctioned flight.
In instances where the owner/registered pilot can show that the drone was stolen and used by an unauthorized party, he or she may be exempted from legal consequences.
As you can imagine, it is possible that a drone can be stolen or taken and used against the will of the owner/registered pilot.
In some such cases, the owner/registered pilot may be held responsible if authorities believe he or she allowed or may have allowed the drone to be operated by an unregistered party.
Consider this a warning. It is possible that the actions of bad actors may cause legal trouble to come your way. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you maintain a close eye on your drone.
Do not leave it unattended in your hotel room or anywhere else while on your travels in Germany. Doing so may be considered an act of negligence if harm or damage results from the use of your drone.
Recreational drone flight in Germany
No permit is needed for drones flown under the following conditions:
- Maximum altitude of 100 meters (328 feet)
- Drones flown within a direct line of sight of the pilot
- The drone weighs 5kg (11 pounds) or less
- The drone is labeled with the name and address of the owner
- Drone liability insurance has been obtained
Commercial drone flights in Germany
Commercial drone pilots must:
- Obey Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945
- Register drones on a national level, obtain an identification number and a permit
- Have a certificate of authorization for drones weighing over 25 kg
- Carry Third-Party Liability insurance
- Be 18 years old and have a National Drone Pilot Certificate