Legal situation

Drones offer great potential – both privately and commercially. More and more people are using them. The more drones ascend, the greater the risk of collisions, crashes, or accidents. Clear rules are therefore needed regarding the use of drones.Alexander Dobrindt, Federal Minister of Transport (retired)

National level

On 6 April 2017, the ordinance on the regulation of the operation of unmanned aircraft systems was published – see the Federal Law Gazette BGBl. (2017, 683).

In force since 7 April 2017:

  • No permit is required for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems weighing less than 5 kg. In addition, the existing general ban on operating outside of sight is lifted. State aviation authorities may permit this type of operation in future for devices weighing 5 kg or more.
  • Operating ban, e.g.,
    • above residential estate when weighing 0.25 kg or more, or if the device is capable of transmitting or recording optical, acoustic, or radio signals
    • at altitudes above 100 meters (ban does not apply on model airfields or if the pilot has proof of knowledge – unless it is a multicopter)
    • in and above sensitive areas, e.g., operation sites of police and rescue teams, crowds of people
    • in approach and departure areas of airports

The competent authority may grant derogations from the prohibitions.

  • Permit required from 5 kg and for operation at night. The permit is issued by the state aviation authorities.

In force since 1 October 2017:

  • Mandatory identification of drones from 0.25 kg, e.g., by means of stickers with name and address of the owner
  • If the weight exceeds 2 kg, proof of knowledge through:
  1. a valid pilot’s license, or
  2. a test certificate issued by a body recognized by the German Federal Aviation Office (Luftfahrt-Bundesamt), minimum age: 16 years, or
  3. certification after instruction by an aerial sports club (only applies to model aircraft), minimum age 14 years

The certificates mentioned under points 2 and 3 are valid for five years.

Further information can be found  here.

European level

On 7 December 2015, the EU Commission presented its Aviation Package, which is intended, among other things, to ensure the safe operation of drones. The basis for this is the “risk-based approach,” according to which safety requirements should depend on the size of a drone, the airspace in which it operates, and how it is used. In order for drone regulations to be defined at the EU level, amendments to the Basic Regulation (EC) 216/2008 were successfully negotiated in a trilogue meeting. The necessary expansion of competence of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is expected in spring 2018. In the meantime, the EASA is already working on drafting basic cornerstones for an EU-wide regulation, e.g., for drone operation, design regulations, no-fly zones, certificates of competence for drone pilots, and much more.

International level

A panel at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a special agency of the United Nations, is currently developing the basis for standards and recommendations on drones in the areas of airworthiness, operation, operator certification, and pilot licensing, which are to be adopted by the council in 2018. Standards and recommendations for recognition and avoidance are to follow in 2020. ICAO’s publications to date provide states with information on all aspects relating to drones and are helpful in technical and operational matters, e.g., integration into airspace and at airports:

  • Cir 328 Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), 2011
  • Doc 10019 Manual on Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), first edition 2015
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