Certification and licensing

Basic requirements and procedures

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

An operator of drones must not necessarily hold a specific licence. However, any operator of drones for ‘specific activities’ must declare its activity to the Civil Aviation Safety Directorate (https://alphatango.aviation-civile.gouv.fr/login.jsp), which will allow the operator to obtain a unique operating number. This declaration must be renewed every 24 months. The operator must then ensure that the operating aircraft meets all the legal requirements (registration, unique number of registration, airworthiness certificate, etc) and that the remote pilots who are to operate the drones have the necessary certificates.

Taxes and fees

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

The online training to obtain the certificate to operate leisure drones above 800 grams is free.

In the case of professional use of drones, if the remote pilot decides to have recourse to a private entity for practical training, he or she will have to pay for the chosen training (the basic price being around €1,000).

Eligibility

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

There is no restriction as to nationality or financial stability. However, some restrictions apply as to the age of the remote pilot.

Candidates for the certificate to operate drones above 800g and up to an operating empty weight of 150kg must be above 14 years old (article 5 of Order of 12 October 2018).

In the case of use for specific activities in scenarios S-1 to S-3, the candidate for the certificate must be above 16 years old (article 3a) of Order of 18 May 2018).

The remote pilot candidate for the certificate to operate a drone for specific activities in scenario S-4 must be above 18 (article 4a) of Order of 18 May 2018).

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?

The remote pilot of leisure drones above 800 grams and up to an operating empty weight of 150kg must undergo online training (https://fox-alphatango.aviation-civile.gouv.fr/) to attest of his knowledge of the regulation (article L. 6214-2, Code of Transport; Decree No. 2018-375 of 18 May 2018 and Order of 12 October 2018). The training takes the form of multiple-choice questions and the number of attempts to succeed is not limited. The certificate is valid for a period of five years and its renewal requires taking the training again. Candidates for the certificate must be above 14 years old.

In the case of use for specific activities in scenarios S-1 to S-3, the remote pilot must also hold a certificate following theoretical examination (organised by the General Direction of the Civil Aviation), but also practical training for which he or she may have recourse to a private entity whose training activities have been declared to the Regional Directorate of Enterprise, Competition Policy, Consumer Affairs, Labour and Employment (Directorate) (article 3 of the Order of 18 May 2018).

For remote pilots wishing to use a drone under specific activities scenario S-4 (see question 3), they will also need to hold a pilot’s licence (for aircraft, helicopter or glider) and must have completed at least 50 hours flight (article 4 of the Order of 18 May 2018).

When the remote pilot intends to operate a drone above 25 kilograms (except captive aerostats) he or she must obtain a competency certificate from the Civil Aviation Safety Directorate (the service DSAC/IR), following a demonstration flight whereby the pilot shows his or her ability to use the drone and react in the case of breakdown (article 4.3 of Annex III of the Order of 17 December 2015 on the design of drones).

Foreign operators

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

French legislation is applicable to any drone flight on French territory be it by a foreign operator or not.

If the operator or remote pilot has obtained a valid certificate from a foreign authority (notably in a European Union member state), such certificate may serve as a basis for the delivery of a certificate from the Civil Aviation Safety Directorate on the ground of the mutual recognition principle as long as the foreign certificate warrants the same level of safety.

For instance, articles 10, 101 to 103 of the Order of 18 May 2018 provide for this mutual recognition within the European Union.

Certificate of airworthiness

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

See also question 6. There is a requirement for approval (certificate of airworthiness) for drones above 25kg, drones of 2 to 25kg used under scenario S-2 and S-4 and drones under 2kg used under scenario S-2 and 4 (Order of 17 December 2015 on the design of unmanned civil aircraft, the conditions of their use and their operator capacities).

The request for approval must be addressed to the service DSAC/NO/NAV of the Civil Aviation Safety Directorate and must be accompanied by a technical file of the drone demonstrating compliance with the applicable technical conditions and by the user and maintenance manual. Depending on the complexity of the drone, a demonstration flight may be requested.