Flying your drone in Europe

This blog is brought to you by Drone Class, your drone trainer for flying in the open and specific category.

Do you want to fly your drone in Europe? But don't know what you need to arrange before you can start your flight? In this guide, we explain European drone laws and regulations and tell you what you need to arrange before you are allowed to fly your drone in Europe.

Where am I allowed to drone fly in Europe?

In Europe, airspace is divided into different areas. Most drone flights are carried out in the open category. The open category means uncontrolled airspace. In this airspace there are no restrictions. However, there are still drone rules to follow and you often need a certificate + registration as a drone pilot to fly in open airspace.

You can check which airspace is active in your flight area by entering the location on an interactive drone map. Each country has its own drone map. You can find all the drone maps of Europe here.

If an airspace has a restriction you are not allowed to drone in this airspace without authorisation.

What steps do I need to take before I can drone fly in Europe?

Here are the steps to take:

  • Obtain your European drone certificate.
  • Inform yourself about additional national drone regulations.
  • Register yourself as a drone pilot in the first country to visit.

European drone laws

What are the drone rules in Europe?

There is European legislation on drone flying. This is applicable to all EU countries, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. However the United Kingdom is not participating, due to Brexit.

The overview below shows the main drone rules for flying in the open category:

  • A drone may be flown at a maximum height of 120 metres.
  • A drone must be flown in direct view of the pilot.
  • A drone must not be flown in a restricted airspace (no-fly zone).
  • A drone must not be flown over uninvolved persons.
  • The pilot must hold a European drone certificate.*
  • The pilot must register him-/herself as the owner of the drone.**

* If the drone weighs 250 grams or more at take-off.
** If a camera is attached to the drone or from 250 grams.

Each European country has national legislation as well for the use of drones. In some countries, like the Netherlands, it is forbidden to drone fly at night for example. Therefore, always check national drone legislation with the local authorities before your start your flight.

European drone certificate

Do I need a European drone certificate?

A European drone certificate is often required when you want to go drone flying in the EU. Two certificates can be obtained in the open category: the Basic certificate A1/A3 and the Additional certificate A2. Which certificate you need depends on the weight of your drone and the flight risk.

Please notice you need different certificate when entering the UK.

EU A1/A3 certificate

The subcategory A1/A3 allows low-risk drone flights. These are drone flights with light drones or drone flights with sufficient distance from buildings.

Light drones without a Cx label (up to 500 grams) may be flown freely in open air spaces, in compliance with European drone legislation. With drones up to 25 kilos, a minimum distance of 150 metres from buildings must be maintained. Drones up to 25 kilos may be flown over rural areas.

EU A2 certificate

In subcategory A2, heavier drones may be flown above and over built-up areas. Because these drone flights, due to the weight of the drone, contain more risk, the drone pilot must hold the A2 certificate.

The table below shows which certificate you need to obtain for each weight class of drone in 2023:

Cx-label

Weight

Subcategory

Certificate

None

250 - 500 grams

A1

A1/A3 

C1

0-900 grams

A1

A1/A3

None

500 grams – 2 kilo

A2

A1/A3 + A2

C2

0-4 kilo

A2

A1/A3 + A2

None

2-25 kilo

A3

A1/A3

C2/C3/C4

0-25 kilo

A3

A1/A3

Not sure which certificate you need? You can find out which certificate you need to obtain for your drone in order to fly a drone in Europe using our selection guide.

How do I obtain a EU drone certificate?

The training for the European drone certificate works as follows:

  1. Easily place an order online for the European drone certificate.
  2. After placing an order, you will receive an e-mail with the login details for the course and exam.
  3. Login to our online learning environment. Through short clear texts and supported images, we explain to you all the drone rules of Europe.
  4. Once you have studied the course material, you can start the exam. The exam is taken in the same online learning environment. You can start the exam at any time and retake it an unlimited number of times.
  5. Have you passed the exam? You can apply through us for your official European drone certificate. This certificate is approved by EASA and valid throughout the EU.
  6. You will receive the official European drone certificate by email immediately after your application. You can print this certificate or take it with you digitally on your phone or tablet.

Where is the European drone certificate valid?

The European drone certificate is valid in all EU countries, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland.

Everything you need to know about flying a drone in europe

Do I need a registration number as a pilot? 

You need a registration number, if your drone has a camera or weighs more than 249 grams. If your drones weigh less than 250 grams but it has actually a camera on board, you need to register yourself as well.

You need to register yourself as a drone pilot in the EU country of residence. If you are not resident in the EU, then you need to register yourself in the first EU country where you start drone flying.

Applying for the registration number is done differently in each European country. In some countries, you can easily register yourself online via the local authorities' website. If you fail to register yourself, contact the local authorities directly. After receiving the registration number, you should attach it visibly to the outside of the drone.

You have to apply for the registration number only once. Like the European drone certificate, the registration number is valid throughout the EU, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.

Are the pilot registration number and the drone certificate number the same? 

No, the pilot registration number and your certificate number are different.

Registration drone pilot europe

Do I risk a fine if I violate the European drone rules?

 If you break the European drone rules you risk a fine. The amount of this fine varies from country to country. Local authorities enforce the European drone rules.

I have a question about European drone legislation. 

Do you have a question about European drone legislation or obtaining the European drone certificate? Feel free to contact us. We will be happy to advise and inform you about all the possibilities for flying a drone in Europe.

Sem van Geffen

Co-owner Drone Class B.V.

About the author

Sem is an experienced trainer/developer, with drones as his main interest. He holds the Dutch RPA-L license and the EASA STS theory certificate. His specialism is EU aviation law and he enjoys flying the DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise.

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