Drone Laws in France

Agencies Responsible for regulating drones in the French Republic (France)

French Civil Aviation Authority (FCAA)

European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)


UAS Laws – General rules for flying drones in France

The French agency responsible for drone safety, FCAA, has provided several internet-accessible details on flying for fun or work. The highlights are enumerated below. For more details go to the links above.

As of 31st December 2020, national rules for drones will be replaced by common European regulations. The purpose of this reform is to create a truly harmonized drone market in Europe with the highest level of safety. In practice, it means that once a drone Οperator has received authorization from its state of registry, he/she will be allowed to freely circulate in the European Union. According to the level of risk involved, this new legal framework will introduce three categories of drone operations: Open, Specific and Certified

Drone operations are to be conducted according to the Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945 and Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 (as amended).

Are drones allowed in France?

According to FCAA, drones are allowed in France, subject to FCAA and EASA regulations. Read on for details.

Here are the most important rules to know for flying a drone in France:

Users of the following unmanned aircraft types are not subject to the new EU registration requirements:

  • An unmanned aircraft with a weight of less than 250 grams and not equipped with a camera or some other sensor capable of capturing personal data,
  • An unmanned aircraft that is considered to be a toy within the meaning of Directive 2009/48/EC,
  • Control line model aircraft with a maximum take-off mass of no more than 1 kg

All other Drone operators must register their drones in France. Registration costs 30€ for 1 year, 75€ for 3 years or 100€ for 5 years.

Following registration, you must adhere to the following rules.

  • Drones may fly up to 50 meters (170 feet) above ground or sea level in the Open category and up to 120 meters (400 feet) in the Specfic category. (The Department of Civil Aviation may grant exemptions to operators of specific category drones.) 
  • Direct visual contact with the drone is required, and the operating distance should not exceed 500 meters. 
  • Avoid flying too close to residential areas or populated areas. 
  • Maintain a safety buffer zone of one kilometer around residential areas. 
  • Unless the owner/person consents, a safety distance of 500 meters from isolated buildings, people, vehicles, animals, and structures is required. 
  • Avoid flying near airports and heliports. Stay A minimum of eight (8) kilometers away from airports and three (3) kilometers from heliports for safety. 
  • At no time is it permissible to fly a drone at night. 
  • There shall be no flying over, within, or near military installations, public utility installations, archaeological sites, or public or private facilities.

Open Category

Given the low level of risk, neither prior authorization by the competent authority nor a declaration by the drone operator is required. The drone’s total takeoff mass must be less than 25kg, and it must be operated within a visual line of sight at a maximum altitude of 120m.

Specific Category

Considering the moderate level of risk involved, flights in this category require authorization before the operation. The permission is given considering the mitigation measures identified in an operational risk assessment, except in specific standard scenarios where an operator declaration is sufficient.

Certified Category

Given the inherent dangers, certification of the drone and a licensed remote pilot are required. If your drone is capable of carrying people, you fall under the Certified category!

Remote ID

Drones weighing 800 grams or more must be equipped with a signaling device beginning 29 June 2020. It transmits the drone’s identification and flight information (coordinates, speed, and course) via radio signal at regular intervals (WIFI). 

EASA Summary of Drone Flight Operation Requirements

EASA Summary Table of Drone Flight Operation Requirements
EASA Summary Table of Drone Flight Operation Requirements

Note for foreign operators

Operator Registration (Non-EU Residents)

  • If you are coming from a non-EU country and this is the first time you will fly your drone in an EU country, you MUST register as an Operator into the FCAA systems at the AlphaTango registration site linked here.
  • Upon registration, you will receive a unique Operator Registration number which you MUST attach to your drone. If you have several drones, the same number must be attached to all of them.
  • You are not allowed to fly in NO FLY ZONES, and you must keep aways a minimum of 8km distance away from airports/heliports.
  • If you already conducted operations in another EU country before going to France, you must not register again. You always register to the first non-EU country you have conducted flights

Remote Pilot Certificate (Non-EU Residents)

  • If you want to fly your drone in France and live in a non-EU country, you must hold a Remote Pilot Certificate issued from an EU country.
  • You can get the A1/A3 Certificate by registering with a Remote Pilot School.
  • The online training and exam are required for those who want to fly a drone in the ‘Open’ category in subcategories A1/A3.
  • The pass mark is 75%, and you have 3 tries in total to pass.
  • Once you pass your exam, you will receive your remote pilot certificate. Its validity will be 5 years.
  • You must have your Remote Pilot Certificate in your possession whenever you plan to perform drone operations in France and present it when asked by the authorities

How to register as a drone pilot or operator in France?

According to European Regulation (EU) 2019/947, registration is mandatory for UAS operators (not for UAS themselves).

The UAS Pilot, also known as the Remote Pilot (RP), is the person physically behind the UAS flight controls. They are fully responsible for the safety of the flight throughout operations.

The UAS Operator is the person or company who oversees operations and gives flight instructions. This person or legal entity bears all responsibility for the operations of the drone (s) on their behalf. Very often, in the OPEN category and as an individual, the Pilot and the Operator are the same person.

Who should register?

As part of the OPEN category, registration is compulsory for operators:

  • UAS that have a mass of 250 g or more; 
  • UAS that have a mass of less than 250 g but: 
    • are able to operate at speeds greater than 90km / h 
    • are equipped with a camera or a microphone, if these UAS are NOT toys * 

* A UAS is a toy when a manufacturer intends it for children under the age of 14 and meets the minimum safety criteria required to be so named. Compliance with these standards naturally limits the capabilities of the UAS (size, weight, non-dangerous spare parts, no powerful motor, etc.): see Directive 2009/48 / EC of 18 June 2009 on the safety of toys

Under the SPECIFIC category, registration is compulsory for all operators.

Natural persons can only register in the country where they reside.

Legal persons must register in the country where their principal place of business is located.

Registration can only be done in one Member State at a time.

How do you register in France for drone operations?

The operator registration procedure begins at the online Alpha Tango registration link

This UAS operator registration number is valid for one year and must therefore be renewed periodically following the same procedure. The operator therefore always uses the same number unless the latter is permanently deregistered from the register.


Notes for recreational drone pilots flying for fun in France

If you want to fly a drone by yourself as a hobby, and the drone weighs over 500 g, you need to read the self-study materials and pass an online theoretical knowledge examination. After the transitional period (from 1.1.2023) the requirement for passing the online theoretical knowledge examination is always when you fly a drone weighing more than 250 g. It is important to remember that in addition to the subcategory conditions and weight limitations, the UAS operator must always comply with the general ‘open’ category requirements (e.g. visual line of sight, maximum height) and valid airspace restrictions.

Private drone flying is permitted in France, but only under the conditions outlined below. No special authorization is required:

  • Drone pilots who fly for leisure or recreation purposes are exempt from training requirements if their drone weighs less than 800 grams. 
  • Drone pilots who wish to operate a remotely piloted aircraft weighing more than 800g for recreational purposes must complete training. 
  • This training may take the form of (1) the DGAC’s Fox AlphaTango course or (2) training provided by the FFAM or UFOLEP recognized as equivalent by the DGAC. 
  • Maximum Height Maximum 150m / 492ft Special approval required for heights greater than 150m / 492ft 
  • There is no maximum distance, but the aircraft must always remain within the operator’s line-of-sight unless approval for a beyond-line-of-sight flight has been granted. 
  • There is no upper weight limit for take-off. 
  • Unless prior approval has been granted, operations must be conducted during the day. 
  • Labeling requirements are not mandatory but are strongly recommended. 
  • Liability insurance for drones is always required.

See general EASA rules above


Notes for operating Commercial Drone Services in France

Commercial drone flying is permitted in France, but you must adhere to the rules outlined below and obtain authorization from the French FCAA:

  • Commercial drone pilots must adhere to several regulations in France. Among other requirements, you must pass French theory and practical tests and obtain various permits. 
  • Maximum elevation – Maximum 150m / 492ft. Special approval required above this level.
  • There is no maximum distance, but the aircraft must always remain within the operator’s line-of-sight unless approval for a beyond-line-of-sight flight has been granted. 
  • There is no upper weight limit for take-off. 
  • A license is necessary. 
  • Unless prior approval has been granted, conduct operations during the day. 
  • Labeling requirements are not mandatory but are strongly recommended. Liability insurance for drones is always required.

See general EASA rules above


Useful published information on flying drones in France

Here is a sample of what you might expect if you follow the drone laws and fly in France…

NOTE: Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS), Small UAS, Remote Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS), unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), and drone are interchangeable terms unless specified. Model aircraft, toy aircraft, Remote controlled aircraft, and RC aircraft may be covered by the same regulations unless specified.


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IMPORTANT NOTE

The content on this site is collated by volunteers from public general information. This material is not presented as legal advice of any kind, and we cannot guarantee that the information is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. Do not substitute the information you find here for legal advice from a licensed attorney who is authorized to practice in the jurisdiction. When in doubt, contact the local aviation authority responsible for drone safety, utilize a licensed drone service operator, and/or consult a qualified attorney.

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