The natural beauty and diversity of Greece are bound to astound you. From rugged mountains to green valleys, pristine beaches with clear waters, and quiet lakes, Greece has it all. If you are going on vacation to Greece, you’ll get no shortage of stunning pictures and images from your drone. But the question is, is it legal to bring a drone to Greece?
You are allowed to bring a drone to Greece. However, before you can fly your drone in Greece, you must register as a drone operator with the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA), the drone regulatory agency in the country. You must also submit an Authorization Request for each flight.
There’s a distinction between commercial and recreational drones in Greek laws according to the weight of drones, their purpose, and where they are flown determining the category a drone belongs to.
The agency that’s responsible for the regulation of drones in Greece is the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA) (link). And the regulations of the HCAA are derived from that of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) since Greece is a member of the European Union (EU).
All member countries of the EU have adopted the EASA guidelines in a bid to create a truly harmonized drone market on the continent. While Greece mostly uses EASA common drone rules, the country has its own drone-specific laws which we will discuss in this article.
Can you bring a drone to Greece?
Yes, you can bring a drone to Greece. All you have to do to get your drone into Greece is to properly pack it and follow any laws regarding drones your airline may have. You’ll be cleared at customs with your drone in your luggage without any problem. Sounds great, right?
So, after getting your drone into Greece, we know you are eager to let it out to the sky and capture images and videos to your heart’s content. But there are regulations regarding flying drones in Greece and it’s important you are aware of these regulations.
General drone laws in Greece
Before you can fly a drone in Greece, you must be approved by the HCAA to fly a drone in Greece. Don’t fret, getting approval is pretty easy as all you have to do is register with the HCAA. More on this in just a bit.
After you’ve been approved to fly, you have to follow other EASA/HCAA regulations which are designed for the safety of the public and yourself. Such regulations include:
- The drone must not be flown at a height more than 400 feet above ground level.
- You are prohibited from flying your drone near airports and heliports. The reason for this is obvious as the HCAA doesn’t want your drone interfering with the operations of manned aircraft.
- Your drone must be within your line of sight at all times. This allows you to see what’s happening with your drone and fly properly.
- You are only to fly your drone during daylight hours. Flying at night requires special approval.
- You must not fly your drone over people or populated areas such as streets and parking lots. This is to prevent injury to people should your drone crash into them or fall from the sky.
- You are prohibited from flying your drone in adverse weather conditions such as heavy rain, heavy wind, and so on.
- You have to be reachable by phone at least 30 minutes before you take off. If possible, it’s preferred you remain reachable by phone throughout the flight.
- If you plan to fly in multiple areas, you have to land your drone first and then move to a new location.
Different categories of drone flights in Greece
Drone flights in Greece can fall into any of the three categories: Open category, special category, and certified category.
Open category flights are recreational flights and do not require prior authorization by the HCAA or a declaration by the drone operator. Drones to be used for open category flights must have a total takeoff mass of less than 55 lbs (25 kg). Also, the drone should not exceed a maximum altitude of 400 ft (120m), and must remain in the operator’s line of sight at all times.
Special category flights have a moderate level of risk and require that authorization be granted by the HCAA before the operation. HCAA will assess the operational risk of a particular special category flight and will only approve such flights only after special conditions have been met and the operator declaration is deemed sufficient.
Certified Category: The HCAA categorizes drones that are large or heavy or inherently pose a high level of risk in this category and requires that the remote pilot and drone be certified due to the inherent dangers of this category.
How to register as a drone pilot or operator in Greece?
As per the European Regulation (EU) 2019/947 (link), all drone operators must register with the HCAA, unless they are already registered in another EU country. The registration here is for the drone operators and not the drone itself. The reason for this is that the regulatory agency wants to know the identity of the pilot controlling the drone to make them accountable for the operations of the drone.
Since you’ll be the one flying your drone, you are the operator of your drone and are required by Greece laws to register your drone with the appropriate agency.
As part of the open category, drone pilots that meet the following requirements must register with the HCAA:
- If your drone has a mass of .55 lbs (250 g) or more.
- If your drone weighs less than .55 lbs (250 g) but is capable of operating at speeds exceeding 55 mph (90 km/h).
- If your drone is equipped with a microphone or camera and is not categorized as a toy.
Some drones are categorized are ‘toys’ if the manufacturer designed such drones for children less than 14. There are also other safety requirements such a drone must meet to be categorized as a drone toy.
If you are traveling to Greece from a non-EU country and haven’t flown a drone before in any EU country, you must register as an OPERATOR before you can fly your drone in Greece. You can register with the HCAA by sending an email to email@example.com. For more information about registering as a non-EU resident, see this document from the HCAA.
Upon successful registration, the HCAA will give you a unique registration number that you have to attach to your drone. If you have multiple drones, you must attach the same number to every one of them. And you must obey all HCAA regulations when flying your drone.
If you have operated a drone in another EU country before, then you don’t have to register. This is because all EU countries have the same drone regulations and drone registration in one EU country is valid in other EU countries. As we said earlier, the reason for this is to create a truly harmonized drone market in the continent.
Procedure for obtaining your Flight Authorization from HCAA
Once you have registered as a drone operator, if you are planning to conduct a flight that will have your drone going more than 55 yards (50m) from you as the operator, you must submit a Flight Authorization Request to the HCAA for each flight. Follow the following steps to obtain your flight authorization from the HCAA:
- You will have to fill, sign and e-mail the Authorization Request for UAS (drone) flights form to HCAA: firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll find the authorization request form on the HCAA website.
- The HCAA may ask for additional information such as your pilot certificate or UAS Registration Number.
- Should the HCAA approve your request, they will inform you of any additional restrictions you may need to comply with to make your flight safer.
- If the HCAA doesn’t approve your request or your approval doesn’t arrive on time, you must cancel your flight plans otherwise, you’ll be flying your drone illegally.
- Should the HCAA approve your request, you have to go to the nearest police station or local municipality in your flight area. For your convenience, visit whichever is closest to you and inform them of your approved drone flight. You may be asked to show some identification like a passport or driver’s license to confirm your identity.
- Fly safely by following all flight rules by the HCAA. Also, you should have your cell phone on in case the police or ATC units want to contact you.
Knowing drone laws in countries you are visiting
Ignorance isn’t an excuse and it’s important you know the laws of any foreign country you are visiting. This includes any activity or recreation you intend to participate in when you are in the country.
While this article is about drone laws in Greece, we’ll be publishing more articles about drone laws in other countries. And the idea is to prepare you for your trip and ensure you don’t get into any trouble with the authorities. So below are steps about what to do when intending to travel to another country with a drone.
- Do your research. The information is on the internet for the taking. Go online and search about the latest or current drone laws in any country you are visiting. The emphasis here is on “current” since drone laws are quickly evolving and it’s in your best interest to find the most recent laws.
- Drill down and find out if regulations are the same across the county or vary by region. Know the specific laws that apply to the region you’ll be staying in.
- Plan your trip and activities in the country based on the results of your research.