Agencies Responsible for regulating drones in the European Union
European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)
IMPORTANT NOTE: This discussion only applies to European Union Member States. For other European countries not part of the European Union or governed by EASA, see Drone Laws In European Countries – from there, you can navigate to the specific country not included in EASA rules.
The framework for drone law in European airspace is in EU Regulations 2019/947 and 2019/945. They take a risk-based approach and, as a result, do not differentiate between recreational and business-related civil drone activities. Instead, they consider the civil drone’s weight, specifications, and the operation you perform.
The rules cover most civil drone operations and their risk levels (Regulation EU 2019947), applicable as of December 31, 2020, in all EU Member States, including Liechtenstein and Norway. In addition, the “open,” “specific,” and “certified” categories of civil drone operations are defined.
The “open” category deals with lower-risk civil drone activities where safety is assured as long as the drone operator complies with the pertinent laws for its intended use. This category has three subcategories: A1, A2, and A3. Since the operational risks are low in the “open” category, you will not need operating authorization before taking off.
Riskier civil drone operations fall under the “specific” category, where the drone operator ensures safety by getting operating authorization from the national competent authority before the operation begins. The drone operator must complete a risk assessment to receive operational approval, which will identify the conditions needed for the civil drone’s safe operation.
Since there is a grave danger of injury in the certified category, it is always necessary to license the remote pilot(s) and certify drone operators and the drone itself.
The U-space, a set of services deployed in airspace where more traffic is anticipated, such as in urban areas, will be used to regulate drone traffic. To avoid aircraft collisions and reduce air and ground dangers, the U-space Regulation sets and harmonizes the standards for manned and unmanned aircraft to fly safely in the U-space area. All unmanned aircraft operations within the U-space regulatory framework’s umbrella will be safe. The EU approved the U-Space Rules in April 2021.
How can I comply?
There are four steps to comply with EASA drone rules:
- Register as an operator
- Ensure you receive the necessary training
- Insure your drone
- Comply with airspace regulations
First, register as a drone operator.
As a drone operator, you must register in the nation where you reside or have your primary place of business as soon as possible after December 31, 2020. For more information, please see the list of national aviation authorities’ drone websites on each country’s page.
Who is a drone operator?
Any individual or organization that owns or hires a drone is considered a drone operator. Therefore, if you also fly the drone, you can be both a drone operator and a remote pilot. For example, if you are a pilot employed by a drone service business, you may be a drone pilot without being the drone operator. In that scenario, the company would be the drone operator, and you would be the remote pilot.
If you bought a drone to fly in your leisure time for drone photography, you are both the drone operator and remote pilot.
Do you need to register your drone?
Drones do not need to be registered until they are certified, but you, as the drone owner or operator, do need to register. You file this with the national aviation authority of the EU nation where you reside.
No matter how many drones you have flying in the “open” or “specific” category, you only need to register once. Your National Aviation Authority will specify the length of time that your registration is good before requiring renewal.
However, you do not need to register yourself if your drone(s):
- does not have a camera or other sensor capable of detecting personal data, and weighs less than 250 g; or
- even if it has a camera or other sensor, weighs under 250 grams, and is a toy (i.e., its documentation demonstrates that it complies with the “toy” Directive 2009/48/EC);
When the National Aviation Authority issues a certificate of airworthiness (or a restricted certificate of airworthiness) to the drone manufacturer, that drone is considered certified. In this instance, registration is necessary. Only when the operation’s risk demands it is a certified drone required. Hence, drones used in the “open” category never require certification.
When is a drone considered a toy?
When a drone is a toy when marketed to and appeals to children. More specifically, items created or intended, whether or not exclusively, for use in play by children under 14 should be regarded as toys and adhere to the Toy Safety Directive 2009/48/EC. The related EU statement of conformity declares that a drone complies with that directive. In cases of uncertainty, market surveillance authorities evaluate whether a product should be classified as a toy based on several factors, such as its kid-friendly appeal and ease of use.
What happens once you register?
After registering, you receive a “drone operator registration number” that you must display with a sticker on each drone you possess, even privately developed. Also, you need to upload it to the Drone’s remote id system.
Will your registration as an operator be recognized throughout Europe?
Your EASA registration is only valid for EASA member states. Indeed, as a drone operator, you will be given a unique registration number valid throughout all EASA member states. Therefore, you may not register twice. Furthermore, the registration reciprocity only applies to EASA-governed states, not all European countries.
Second, receive the necessary training.
The next step is to confirm that you know the laws governing civil drone use and the risks they pose. The person who is registered and in charge of the operation is the drone operator. In contrast, the remote pilot may be a different individual (typically, it is the drone’s owner). The person who pilots the drone is known as the remote pilot. The remote pilot may be the drone operator themselves, or they may hire one or more remote pilots. You cannot begin a drone operation without the remote pilot having received the necessary training.
Training requirements for the “open category.”
The National Aviation Authority is responsible for issuing the certificates for the “open” category or common scenarios. A remote pilot proficiency certificate is good for five years. The remote pilot may attend a seminar offered by the National Aviation Authority or a recognized body if the revalidation is done before the certificate expires; otherwise, competencies must be re-demonstrated.
Training conducted in one EASA member state is recognized in all others.
The following describes the training requirements in effect as of January 1, 2023:
Please pay attention: some illegal websites are selling fake certificates of training. So please trust only the training and exam providers listed on the NAA website!
No training is required if the drone you use:
- has a CO class identification label
- is built by yourself (privately) and has a maximum weight of less than 250 g.
- is purchased before December 31, 2022, without a class identification label and with a maximum weight of less than 250 g.
However, you must familiarize yourself with the drone technology and the manufacturer’s instructions.
Proof of completion for online training for the Al/A3 ‘open’ subcategory:
If your drone meets one of the following conditions:
- has one of the following class identification labels (1, 3, or 4, shown in the image below):
- or is purchased before December 31, 2022, without a class identification label and with a maximum weight of less than 25 kg,
Then after familiarising yourself with the drone manufacturer’s instructions, you must undertake online training and take an exam for the A1/A3 category. Please check the NAA’s website to learn how to receive this training and exam. You may undertake the training and take the exam in any EASA Member State.
After answering 40 questions with at least a 75 % pass rate, you will receive the certificate in the image below.
Remote pilot certificate of competency for the A2 ‘open’ subcategory
If your drone has a C2 class identification label, you need to:
- familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s instructions;
- complete the online training and pass the online exam as defined for drones with a C1, C3, or C4 class identification label;
- identify a safe area that meets the requirements for subcategory A3 (a place where no uninvolved persons are present in the range of the drone, at least 150 m away from residential, industrial, or commercial areas) and conduct practical self-training.
Now you can contact an NAA to take an additional theoretical exam. Before taking the exam, you must declare your successful completion of the practical training. The exam may be administered in a classroom or online; in the latter case, a system provided by the respective NAA for identifying your identity (e.g., an online proctoring system) is required. After answering 30 questions with a 75% pass rate, you will receive the certificate in the image below.
Note that an NAA may designate an entity that may conduct the online training and provide the online exam or the exam for the A2 subcategory. Please refer to the NAA’s website for additional information.
Training requirements for the “specific category.”
The National Aviation Authority is responsible for issuing the certificates for standard scenarios. A certificate for Remote Pilot competency is valid for five years. If the revalidation is conducted before the certificate expires, the remote pilot may attend a seminar provided by the National Aviation Authority or an entity it recognizes; otherwise, competencies must be re-demonstrated.
For operations in the ‘specific’ category that are not covered by standard scenarios, the training will be defined in the operational authorization provided by the National Aviation Authority.
For operations falling under the ‘specific’ category, the training depends on the operation you intend to conduct. So unless the operation falls into a standard scenario, after the risk assessment, you will need to propose a possible training course to the National Aviation Authority. In each case, the authority will evaluate the adequacy of the training, and if they confirm it in the operational authorization, the training will become the required training.
If your operation falls into a standard scenario, the remote pilot must:
- hold a certificate of remote pilot theoretical knowledge for operation under standard scenarios;
- hold an accreditation of completion of the STS-01 practical skill training.
To do so, the remote pilot must complete and pass an online training course.
Both the certificate and accreditation can be issued by a competent authority or an entity chosen to do so.
Third, properly insure your drone
Also, you must make sure that your drone is adequately insured. We advise you to ask your NAA about the requirements for drone insurance.
Finally, confirm the airspace is clear to fly.
Lastly, confirm with your NAA which areas are restricted from drone activities or require drone flight authorization before entering (UAS geographical zones). Every event or accident you see, are a part of or result in a person being hurt or involving an aircraft with a pilot aboard should be reported to the local NAA.
Where do EASA rules apply?
The European Commission and the EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) European regulation apply to 31 countries. EASA Member states are the 27 European Union Countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
On the following country pages, you will find links to the National Civil Aviation Authority, the online drone licence site, drone registration links, sites for operational authorisation, locations to check for controlled airspace, no-fly zones, etc.
- Austria Drone Laws – Austro Control
- Belgium Drone Laws – Federal Public Service Mobility and Transport
- Bulgaria Drone Laws – Directorate General Civil Aviation Administration
- Croatia Drone Laws – Croatian Civil Aviation Agency
- Cyprus Drone Laws – Cyprus Department of Civil Aviation
- Czech Republic Drone Laws – Czech Republic Civil Aviation Authority
- Denmark Drone Laws – Denmark Civil Aviation Administration
- Estonia Drone Laws – Estonia Civil Aviation Administration
- Finland Drone Laws – Finnish Transport Safety Agency
- France Drone Laws – French Civil Aviation Authority
- Germany Drone Laws – German Federal Aviation Office / Deutsche Flugsicherung
- Greece Drone Laws – Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority
- Hungary Drone Laws – General Directorate for Air Transport
- Iceland Drone Laws – Icelandic Transport Authority
- Ireland Drone Laws – Irish Aviation Authority
- Italy Drone Laws – Italian Civil Aviation Authority
- Latvia Drone Laws – Civil Aviation Authority of The Republic of Latvia
- Liechtenstein Drone Laws – Landesverwaltung Liechtenstein Division Civil Aviation
- Lithuania Drone Laws – Civil Aviation Authority of the Republic of Lithuania
- Luxembourg Drone Laws – Directorate of Civil Aviation
- Malta Drone Laws – Malta Civil Aviation Directorate
- Netherlands Drone Laws – Civil Aviation Authority
- Norway Drone Laws – Civil Aviation Authority Norway
- Poland Drone Laws – Civil Aviation Authority Poland
- Portugal Drone Laws – National Civil Aviation Authority
- Romania Drone Laws – Romanian Civil Aviation Authority
- Slovakia Drone Laws – Civil Aviation Authority of the Transportation Office
- Slovenia Drone Laws – Civil Aviation Administration of Slovenia
- Spain Drone Laws – Agencia Estatal de Seguridad Aerea
- Sweden Drone Laws – Swedish Transport Agency
- Switzerland Drone Laws – Federal Office of Civil Aviation
- For other European countries not part of the European Union or governed by EASA, see Drone Laws In European Countries – from there, you can navigate to the specific country not included in EASA rules.
Can an EASA Member State (MS) maintain its national drone rules parallel to the new European drone legislation?
No. Since December 31, 2020, all EU Member States have been subject to the EU drone legislation, which supersedes all prior national restrictions and renders them obsolete. Therefore, the European Drone Regulation already governs the use of drones. Hence the EASA MSs cannot create any more rules on the subject. Nonetheless, the EU drone regulation provides the EU Member States with significant latitude to create acts to address certain issues like:
- Minimum age for a remote pilot
- Conversion of certificates issued before the applicability of the EU regulation
- Authorization of model clubs and associations
- Fines when breaching the rules
- Use of geographical zones
We show any adjustments to specific drone rules for the abovementioned parameters on each EU country page listed earlier.
Are the UK-issued certificates for unmanned aircraft systems, including training of drone pilots, accepted in the EU after December 31, 2020?
As of January 1, 2021, the United Kingdom (UK) left the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) system. Since then, the UK, regarded as a third country, is no longer subject to EU law.
According to Article 41 of Commission Regulation (EU) 2019/945, operators of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) with their primary place of business, establishment, or residence in the UK must adhere to Commission Regulation (EU) 2019/947 for operations within the single European Sky airspace. The competent authority of the first Member State where the UAS operator intends to operate is appropriate for such a third-country UAS operator who wishes to conduct business within the EU.
According to Article 41 of Commission Regulation (EU) 2019/945, a certificate of the remote pilot’s competency or the UAS operator’s certificate issued by a third country may be recognized by the competent authority of the EU Member State as a derogation from the provisions as mentioned earlier as long as all of the following requirements are satisfied:
- the third country asked for such recognition,
- the certificate of the remote pilot competency or the UAS operator’s certificate are valid documents of the State of issue; and
- the Commission, after consultation with EASA, has ensured that the requirements on the basis of which such certificates have been issued provide the same level of safety as the Regulation (EU) 2019/945 does;
UK certificates cannot be recognized for UAS operations within the Single European Sky because the UK has not started the previously mentioned recognition process.
What is the process to apply for operational authorization to fly in the specific category in a state other than the one in which you are registered?
To operate in a specific category in a state other than where you are registered, you must first get operational authorization from the state’s responsible body. This competent authority will analyze your risk assessment and determine whether the mitigation strategies you provide and the safety goals are sufficient to carry out this kind of operation.
Then you must apply for a cross-border operation’s confirmation to the state’s competent body, showing them your use of mitigating measures in the area and, if necessary, your compliance with local laws.
Do Non-EU residents visiting Europe and planning to fly a drone need to register?
Regardless of the operator’s or remote pilot’s nationality, all drone operations in the EASA Member States must adhere to the Drone Regulations. Thus, you must register with the National Aviation Authority of the first EU nation where you intend to conduct operations as a non-EU resident.
You will then be issued a ‘drone operator registration number’ that needs to be displayed with a sticker on all your drones. You must also upload it into your drone’s ‘remote identification system’ of your drone(s).
Once registered in the host country, the drone operator’s registration will be valid across Europe, and the operator will be required to follow all the provisions of the Drone Rules. You must only register once if you fly in another EASA state.
You must submit a declaration for a standard scenario or request an operating license to the National Aviation Authority of the EU Member State(s) where you registered if you intend to operate in the “specific” category.
You must follow the same procedure as all other national citizens of the Member State where you registered if you want to conduct operations in a different Member State from the one in which you registered.
In simple terms, if you are a tourist to an EU state, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland and want to fly a drone –
- You must register as a drone operator with the National Aviation Authority of the first EASA country you intend to operate from.
- Once registered in your host EASA country, this will be valid across the rest of EASA countries. You can’t register in another EASA country.
- You must comply with European Drone Regulations and enjoy your flight!
What you must know about European Union No Fly Zones or No Drone Zones
You need to know if you can operate your drone, under what limitations, whether authorizations are required, and how to get those authorizations.
We encourage you to read our explainer for more details on this topic here: Explainer – What You Must Know About No Fly Zones or No Drone Zones
Useful published information on flying drones in EASA governed locations
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, remote-controlled, and RC aircraft may be covered by the same regulations unless specified.
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