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Source: Fotolia / nesterenko_max

A recast of the rules governing drones. The Federal Minister of Transport, Alexander Dobrindt, has presented "Regulations Governing the Operation of Unmanned Aircraft".

Key rules:

  1. Mandatory marking: In the future, all model aircraft and unmanned aerial systems with a take-off mass of 0.25 kg or more will have to be marked so that the keeper can be quickly identified in the event of an incident. This marking will take the form of a sticker bearing the name and address of the owner.
  2. Certificate of knowledge: In the future, a certificate of knowledge will be required for the operation of model aircraft and unmanned aerial systems weighing 2 kg or more. Proof can be furnished in one of the following ways: a) a valid pilot's licence; b) a certificate issued by a body recognized by the Federal Aviation Office (also possible online) after an examination has been passed, minimum age: 16 years c) a certificate issued by a mandated air sports association (DMFV or DAeC) or a club commissioned by it after a briefing has been given (applies to model aircraft only), minimum age 14 years. The certificates will be valid for five years. No certificate of knowledge will be required for operation at model flying sites.
  3. No permission required: In the future, a permission will not be required for the operation of model aircraft and unmanned aerial systems with a total mass of less than 5 kg. Operation by authorities will normally not require permission as long as this is necessary for the performance of their functions; the same applies to organizations with safety functions, such as fire brigades, disaster relief organizations, the Red Cross, etc.
  4. Permission required: Permission will be required for the operation of model aircraft and unmanned aerial systems weighing 5 kg or more and for night-time operation. This permission will be granted by the federal state aviation authorities.
  5. Opportunities for this emerging technology: In the past, commercial users have required permission for the operation of unmanned aerial systems – regardless of their weight. In the future, permission will normally no longer be required for the operation of unmanned aerial systems weighing less than 5 kg. In addition, the existing prohibition on beyond visual line of sight operations will be lifted. In the future, federal state aviation authorities will be able to allow such operations for devices weighing 5 kg or more.
  6. Operating ban: In the future, the operation of model aircraft and unmanned aerial systems will be prohibited:

    • beyond the operator's visual line of sight for devices weighing less than 5 kg;
    • in and over sensitive areas, for instance sites of police and emergency service operations, hospitals, gatherings of people, installations and facilities such as penal institutions or industrial plants, top-level and higher-level Federal Government and federal state authorities, nature reserves;
    • over certain items of transport infrastructure;
    • in aerodrome control zones (including aerodrome approach and take-off areas);
    • at altitudes over 100 metres above ground level unless operation is at a site for which general permission to fly model aircraft has been granted and for which a supervisor has been appointed or, unless the device is a multicopter, the operator holds a valid pilot's licence or has a certificate of knowledge;
    • over residential property if the take-off mass of the device is more than 0.25 kg or the device or its equipment are able to receive, transmit or record optical, acoustic or radio signals. Exception: the party whose rights are affected by the operation over any given residential property consents to the overflight;
    • over 25 kg (applies to "unmanned aerial systems" only).

    The competent authority may permit exemptions from the prohibitions if the operation does not pose any risk to aviation safety or to public safety and order, especially in the form of an infringement of the provisions governing data protection and nature conservation, and due regard is paid to protection against aircraft noise. Especially in cases where beyond visual line of sight operations are planned, the authorizing authority will request that an objective safety assessment be submitted.

  7. Requirement to give way: Unmanned aerial systems and model aircraft will be required to give way to manned aircraft and unmanned free balloons.
  8. Use of video goggles: Flights using video goggles will be permitted if they are at an altitude of up to 30 metres and the device does not weigh more than 0.25 kg or it is in the visual line of sight of another person who is able to warn the operator of any danger. These will be deemed to be visual line of sight operations.

The Regulations were promulgated in the Federal Law Gazette on 6 April 2017 and entered into force on 7 April 2017. The rules governing the marking requirement and the obligation to present a certificate of knowledge did apply as of 1 October 2017.