In 2020, the laws governing the operation of drones changed once again and are now fully valid after a transitional period. The national drone regulation has been in place since 2017 and has now been replaced by the EU drone regulation. This change also brings new driving licences and certificates. To help you keep track, we have summarised the most important information about the certificates for you:
Mandatory registration for all!
Operators of drones with a camera - regardless of the take-off weight - are required to register with immediate effect. We would like to emphasise once again that you as the operator must register - but not your drone. This means that anyone operating a drone privately must register just like a company operating 100 drones. Registration takes place online at the Federal Aviation Office. This applies regardless of the drone driving licence, which is required for pilots.
Drones up to 250g licence-free
As with the national drone ordinance, small drones can be operated without a licence. The maximum take-off weight must not exceed 250g and the drone must not be able to record personal data, i.e. no camera. Therefore, no registration of the drone operator is necessary.
This weight class, which does not require a licence, therefore mainly includes small toy drones.
One German drone licence becomes two EU drone licences
Until now, there was one German drone licence and you either had it or you didn't. This is now being replaced by two EU drone driving licences. You can memorise the two as a small and large EU drone driving licence. The German drone licence, i.e. the proof of knowledge according to §21d LuftVO, is only valid until 31.12.2023. However, this can only be used in combination with the new small EU drone licence. Please note: The DMFV or DAeC instruction certificates or a private pilot licence are not valid for operating drones!
The ultimate question: stock drone or certified drone?
Everything depends on whether your drone is a stock drone. And to make it quick: If you own or want to buy a drone, it's almost certainly still a stock drone. You're asking yourself, so why the big question? Because almost all of the articles and help on the internet refer to certified drones, which don't even exist yet. However, there are a lot of announcements about when EU-certified drones will come onto the market. In some cases, it is possible to have drones that have already been purchased subsequently certified.
As the rule is to own an existing drone, we will first look at the transitional rules for existing drones.
transitional rules for existing drones
The transitional rules apply in all EU countries until 31 December 2023.
Existing drones up to 500 g without a drone licence in A1
All existing drones up to 500 g may only be flown in operating category A1 without a drone licence, i.e. also above individual people. A brief explanation of A1, A2 and A3 can be found here.
Stock drones up to 2 kg in A3
above 500 g, the small EU drone licence is mandatory as long as you are in operating category A3. As a reminder: This means always at a great distance from uninvolved persons and 150 metres away from residential/commercial/industrial and recreational areas. The German drone licence, i.e. the proof of knowledge according to §21d LuftVO, is also still valid here.
Existing drones up to 2 kg with a large EU drone licence maximum 50 m instead of 150 m
If the 150 m is not sufficient for operation, you must register for a course for the large EU drone licence. This allows you to fly within 50 metres of uninvolved persons. Another option is currently the combination of the German drone licence, the small EU drone licence and a self-declaration of practical knowledge. You can find out more about this from us.
Existing drones over 2 kg in A3
If you have a drone with a take-off weight of over 2 kg, you will unfortunately have to make do with category A3. The German drone licence or the small EU drone licence is required. Even a large EU drone licence will not help here. BUT: The drones are not lost. Many manufacturers (e.g. DJI) are currently working on re-certification for existing drones. But certification for what? We need to take a look outside the box for existing drones.
New EU weight classes from C0 to C4
What sounds cumbersome at first is a very clever idea. In future, manufacturers will be obliged to label every drone they produce. The label will then say C0, C1, C2, C3 or C4. There will also be a small label stating where I am allowed to fly my new drone in class C0, C1, C2, C3 or C4. The classes are defined according to take-off weight as follows:
- C0: up to 250 g
- C1: up to 900 g
- C2: up to 4 kg
- C3/C4: up to 25 kg
A simple principle applies: the lighter the drone, the closer I can fly to uninvolved persons. To implement this simple rule, three categories A1, A2 and A3 have been defined:
- A1: above individual uninvolved persons
- A2: up to 30 m from uninvolved persons
- A3: up to 150 metres from residential/commercial/industrial and recreational areas and at a large distance from uninvolved persons
(As you can see, this is about the consequences of a possible accident)
And tada! If we put C's and A's together, we end up with the current rules, which are:
? C0 is allowed to fly in A1 without any drone licence
? C1 may fly in A1 with a small EU drone licence
There are two options for C2:
? C2 may fly with a small EU drone licence in A3
? C2 may fly with a large EU drone licence in A2
For C3/C4 again only one:
? C3/C4 may fly with a small EU drone licence in A3
So simple, so good. But now there's the problem with the drones that don't yet have such a licence plate - our beloved existing drones. In addition to the weight limit, a few other requirements such as remote identification and geosensitisation systems must be on board for a C-class classification. We will not go into these in detail here, as they are only of interest to manufacturers. We just want to make one more point: Just because an existing drone weighs less than 4 kg does not mean that it can be recertified for class C2! However, the major manufacturers are doing their utmost to achieve post-certification. So owners of DJI drones have relatively little to worry about. Do you want to be up to date? We regularly inform you on our YouTube channel about the possibilities and process of post-certification. Subscribe now!
So now you know what you need the small and/or large EU drone licence for. Let's take a final look at the requirements to be met in the individual tests and - more importantly - where you can obtain the EU drone pilot licences.
For light drones and meadow flyers: the small EU drone licence
The test for this is offered centrally by the Federal Aviation Office and costs around 30 to 40 euros. The small drone licence is then urgently required for the following example models:
- DJI Mini 3 Pro
- DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise
- Yuneec H520
- Autel Evo II
This online test consists of 40 multiple-choice questions from 9 subject areas, including aviation law, privacy, data protection and questions about the EU directives on operating a drone. To pass the test, at least 75% must be answered correctly, although it is possible to retake the test.
Useful for almost everyone: large EU drone driving licence
In contrast to the small EU drone driving licence, the large EU drone driving licence is issued decentrally by so-called notified bodies. We are a notified body and are therefore authorised to offer training courses with an examination for the large EU drone driving licence. The exam can be taken online or in person, depending on your preference.
A few important requirements must be met in order to take the examination for the large EU drone driving licence:
- You must hold the small EU dr one licence and
- submit a practical self-declaration, i.e. provide evidence of your practical flying skills.
If you don't have either of these and would like to go from zero to a full EU drone licence as quickly as possible, then our full EU training course is the right choice for you.
The content of the test builds on the successful completion of the small EU drone licence and covers topics such as meteorology, drone technology and legal regulations.
Where is my EU drone licence valid?
As with all EU directives, these are of course valid in all EU countries. They are also valid in Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. However, there may be deviations in the flight restrictions and prohibited zones for drones. Both the small and the large EU drone licence are valid for 5 years. We will of course keep you up to date with any upcoming refreshments.