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Can You Fly a Drone in Germany?

Germany’s scenery enchants the millions of people who visit this European country each year.

There’s so much to hold dear between the castles, timbered homes, populated villages, Rococo churches, deep forests, and alpine slopes.

Can you fly a drone in Germany commercially and recreationally?

Drones are allowed in Germany according to the German Federal Aviation Office, the governing aircraft authority in the country. You must follow the rules established by the GFAO and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.

It’s always a little complex flying a drone in another country, what with a different governing authority, language barriers, and different measurements (like meters or kilometers) that you may not be used to.

This guide will help you navigate using your drone in Germany.

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What agency makes the drone rules in Germany?

As a drone pilot, you’ve surely memorized the FAA’s drone laws inside and out. That will only benefit you when operating your drone in the United States though.

In Germany, FAA guidelines no longer apply. Rather, you’re under the jurisdiction of the German Federal Aviation Office or GFAO.

In Germany, you’re a lot likelier to hear this agency referred to as the Luftfahrt-Bundesamt, but it’s the same thing as the GFAO. It’s still the country’s national civil aviation authority.

The GFAO is stationed in Braunschweig and reports to the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure.

Can you fly a drone in Germany?

Europe as a whole is quite drone-friendly, with some parts more so than others. Germany is one country where drones are permitted, but only in approved areas.

Germany is rather dense, especially in its cities, so you won’t have entirely free reign, but you should be able to use your drone freely enough that you’re satisfied. That goes for recreational and commercial pilots alike.

Keep in mind that at all times you’re flying that you must follow GFAO rules. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency may impose drone rules in Germany and the rest of Europe that you’d also have to obey.  

Germany drone rules to know before you go

Okay, so what exactly are the drone rules in Germany, anyway? Without further ado, let’s go over that information.

Drones can only fly if they’re in the “open” category

Commercial or recreational aside, a drone must be in the “open” category to be eligible to fly in the European Union.

What in the world does that mean? Your drone must meet some specific criteria:

  • The drone class must be between 0 and 4.
  • The drone cannot carry “dangerous goods” and will not drop those goods.
  • Your drone must always stay within 120 meters or 400 feet in the air.
  • You must keep a visual line of sight on the drone unless you have a UA observer assisting you.
  • The drone will not fly over people unless it weighs less than 250 grams or 0.55 pounds.
  • The drone will not weigh more than 25 kilograms or 55 pounds at takeoff.
  • You bought your drone before January 1st, 2023.

Special recording drones are prohibited in residential areas

Do you own a high-end drone capable of transferring and/or recording radio, acoustic, or optimal signals?

You’re better off not bringing this drone to Germany, as your usage abilities will be limited.

Drones of this nature must stay out of residential areas unless the property owners are aware of the nature of your drone and permit its flight.

That’s a tall order, especially with issues like language barriers.

Don’t fly over nature conservation areas

In Germany, the Federal Nature Conservation Act went into effect in 2009 to conserve the country’s beauty Today, the act is overseen by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection.

If you read this blog often enough, you’ll know that drones and nature conservation areas rarely mix. The same opinion prevails in Germany, where any nature conservation area listed in the Federal Nature Conservation Act prohibits UAVs.

We recommend researching a nature park and contacting the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection or the GFAO for guidance on whether you can use your drone there.

You must keep a reasonable distance from railway facilities and federal waterways and highways

If you’re taking urban shots of Germany for a personal or professional drone project, know that you can’t fly any closer than 100 meters or 328 feet from railway facilities, federal waterways, and federal highways.

You’re forbidden from flying in sensitive areas

The GFAO and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency can assign parts of Germany as sensitive areas, meaning that drones cannot fly in those areas.

Some examples of areas that may be deemed sensitive include traffic routes, residential areas, prisons, disaster areas, industrial areas, and crowds, either in whole or in part.

Since this information can change on a dime, we can’t stress enough how important it is to travel with a good drone mapping app that you can use to determine if you’re legally allowed to fly.

Heavy drones must have a fireproof badge

Does your drone weigh more than 250 grams or 0.55 pounds? Not only will you find it more laborious legally to get into the skies, but you’ll also have to jump through more hoops.

German drone law requires you to register the drone with a fireproof badge. Stick the badge prominently on your UAV.

The badge must include information such as your full name and your address. If you’re not the drone pilot or owner, then their information must be on the badge.

You must not fly closer than 1.5 kilometers to an airport

German drone law prohibits pilots from flying any closer than 1.5 kilometers or 0.93 miles to any airport throughout the country.

Although you can get very close to airports compared to the drone laws in other parts of the world, we still wouldn’t advise you to do that!

You must have drone insurance

Usually, only commercial pilots have to worry about insuring their drones to protect a country from liabilities. Not in Germany!

It doesn’t matter if you’re flying commercially or recreationally. You must have active insurance before you launch your drone.

You may need a drone license

In Germany, drones must be licensed by their weight. Pilots operating a drone weighing 2 kilograms or 4.4 pounds needn’t worry about a permit.

If your drone weighs or exceeds 5 kilograms or 11 pounds, you must contact the GFAO about obtaining a permit.

Heavier drones must have a permit to fly at night

Speaking of permits, if you’re required to have one because your drone weighs or exceeds 5 kilograms, you also need that permit if you plan to use your drone after dark.

Without a permit, it’s illegal for heavier drones to fly at night.

Your drone must stay within your visual line of sight

You’ll recall from the section on what constitutes an “open” drone that your drone must stay within your visual line of sight when using it.

FPV drone owners may be the exception in Germany. If your drone will remain only 30 meters or 98 feet in the air and doesn’t exceed 250 grams or 0.55 pounds, then you can fly it without a visual line of sight.

Your drone cannot fly higher than 50 meters and sometimes 100 meters

When operating your drone in controlled airspace in Germany, the altitude limit is 50 meters or 164 feet. You can fly up to 100 meters or 328 feet outside controlled airspace if you have a permit.

Without a permit, you’re limited to 50 meters of altitude.

Germany is a spectacular place to visit with your drone, as you can see various rich sights. Drones are permitted in the country if you follow the guidelines of the GFAO and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.

Familiarize yourself with the rules, contact the GFAO if you need further clarification, and don’t fly in the country without a drone mapping app.

Germany can restrict airspace as needed, and entering a no-fly zone is not how you want to spend your trip here!