Certification and licensing

Basic requirements and procedures

What certificates or licences are required to operate drones and what procedures apply?

The regulations are based on the weight of the drone, as this is the indicator of the risk posed by the drone.

According to article 21a LuftVO, permission must be obtained from the responsible aviation authority in the following cases:

  • if the take-off mass exceeds 5kg;
  • for rocket-powered drones, if the mass of the propellant exceeds 20g;
  • for internal combustion engine-powered drones operated at a distance of less than 1.5km from residential areas;
  • for drones taking off at a distance of less than 1.5km from the perimeter of aerodromes. At aerodromes, the operation of unmanned aviation systems and flight models also requires the approval of the air traffic control (ATC) authority and the aerodrome management; or
  • for the operation of drones at night (night being defined in article 2, No. 97 of the Implementing Regulation (EU) 923/2012).

Pilots of unmanned aircraft with a take-off mass of more than 2kg must prove their knowledge of:

  • the use and navigation of such aircraft;
  • the relevant basic air law; and
  • local airspace regulations.

Such proof can be provided with:

  • a valid pilot licence or a certified copy thereof;
  • a certificate of a passed examination issued by a body recognised by the LBA; or
  • a certificate of instruction issued by an authorised air sports association or a club for the operation of flight models.

The operation of unmanned aviation systems by or under the supervision of:

  • authorities, if this takes place for the fulfilment of their tasks; and
  • safety organisations involved in emergencies, accidents and disasters;
  • does not require a permission or proof of knowledge.

The competent authority for granting the above-mentioned permission is the locally competent aviation authority of the relevant German federal state.

As per article 21b LuftVO, the following types of drone operations are prohibited:

  • beyond the sight of the operator if the MTOW of the drone is 5kg or less;
  • at a height and lateral distance of 100 metres from crowds, accident scenes, disaster areas and other operation sites of authorities and organisations with safety or security missions as well as mobile establishments and troops of the army;
  • at a height and lateral distance of 100 metres from the outer boundaries of industrial facilities, prisons, military facilities, energy production facilities;
  • at a height and lateral distance of 100 metres from governmental authorities, embassies and consulates and police facilities;
  • at a height and lateral distance of 100 metres from federal highways and railway facilities;
  • over certain nature reserves;
  • over residential estates if the MTOW of the drone exceeds 0.25kg or if the device or its equipment is able to receive, transfer or record optical, acoustic or radio signals, unless the owner of the premises or the resident has expressly consented to the overflight; and
  • at a height and lateral distance of 100 metres from the boundaries of a hospital.

According to the Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947, there will be a subdivision of drones into the operating categories ‘open’, ‘special ‘and ‘certified’, on the basis of which the permit requirements will be determined.

Taxes and fees

Are certification and licensing procedures subject to any taxes or fees?

The competent authority for issuing the permit is the locally competent aviation authority of the relevant German federal state. The fees arising from the administrative procedure are levied by the relevant authority on the basis of its national administrative provisions. For example, the fees for issuing a permit in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg amount to €100-300.

Eligibility

Who may apply for certifications and licences? Do any restrictions apply?

German law does not impose any requirements on the applicant for a permit under article 21a LuftVO. Pursuant to article 21a, paragraph 3 LuftVO, the required permit is rather granted if the operation does not pose a safety risk for air traffic or a risk for public safety and order.

Remote pilot licences

Must remote pilots obtain any certifications or licences to operate drones? If so, do the relevant procedures differ based on the type of drone or operation?

Under German law, a general licence or certification for the operation of drones does not exist. However, in particular cases, a permit is required.

According to article 1, no. 6 of the German Regulation on Aviation Personnel (LuftPersV), pilots of flight models with an MTOW of more than 25kg require a pilot licence.

As indicated above under question 11, as per article 21a, paragraph 4 LuftVO, a pilot of a drone with a take-off weight of more than 2kg is obliged to provide proof of specific knowledge for pilots of unmanned aircraft if the drone is operated outside flying fields for model aircraft. Accordingly, operators of drones with a take-off mass of more than 2kg require a certificate of sufficient knowledge and skills in usage and navigation, of the relevant provisions of aviation law and of the local airspace regulations. The certificate is valid for five years.

To obtain a permit to operate an unmanned aviation system, the applicant must be 16 years or older.

To obtain a permit to operate a flight model, the applicant must be at least 14 years old.

Article 9 of the Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947 provides for a minimum age of 16 for remote pilots operating unmanned aircraft systems in the open and special categories. The Implementing Regulation regulates the requirements on the knowledge and skills of the remote pilot on the one hand and on his or her state of health on the other. In addition, the category in which the respective drone is classified is decisive for the required conditions.

Foreign operators

Are foreign operators authorised to fly drones in your jurisdiction? If so, what requirements and restrictions apply?

The LuftVO regulates the requirements and conditions for the participation in air traffic in the Federal Republic of Germany. Participation is independent of the nationality of the operator. Foreign operators are, therefore subject to the same conditions as domestic operators.

Licences acquired by domestic or foreign operators in a third country can be recognised by the LBA as sufficient if they have been issued in accordance with Regulation (EU) 1178/2012.

According to article 13 of the Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947, for the operation of drones in the category ‘special’ that shall be carried out wholly or partly in the airspace of another member state, the drone operator must submit an application to the competent authority of the member state in which the operation shall be carried out.

Certificate of airworthiness

Is a certificate of airworthiness required to operate drones? If so, what procedures apply?

According to article 1 LuftZVO, a type certification is required for certain aircraft and thus a certificate of airworthiness. Unmanned aircraft are expressly exempted from type certification (article 1, paragraph 4, sentence 1, no. 2 LuftVZO). A certificate of airworthiness is, therefore, not required for drones. However, flight models with a maximum take-off mass of more than 25kg are subject to type certification according to article 1, paragraph 1, no. 8 LuftVZO and require a certificate of airworthiness.

According to article 10 of the Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/947, unmanned aircraft must comply with the technical requirements, regulations and procedures for airworthiness issued on the basis of article 58 of Regulation (EU) 2018/1139. According to article 3, paragraph 1 (c), drones in the ‘certified’ category require approval as per the Delegate Regulation (EU) 2019/945.