Latest Drone Laws in France

If you’re in France and plan to operate drones, or plan to travel there with a drone, you should be aware of the latest drone laws in France

Since France is a member of the European Union (EU), the latest drone laws in France also operate in the EU. The new set of drone regulations took effect on January 1, 2021.

All drone manufacturers and operators must follow these laws for safety reasons.

Current drone laws require registering your device and providing proof when flying it. You should also maintain a visual line of sight throughout the flight or have a visual observer to track the drone.

This article outlines the French drone regulatory framework under the ‘big’ EU Drone umbrella. Adhering to them ease your UAV operations in France. 

Let’s get started.

What Are the Latest Drone Laws in France?

According to the French Civil Aviation Authority (FCAA), the latest French drone laws are in four categories, including the following:

General Laws

Here are important laws you should know about flying a drone in France. Whether you’re a commercial or recreational pilot, you must adhere to the following:

  • Don’t fly your drone over people, airports, airfields, or private property without the owner’s consent.

    Also, restricted areas such as prisons, military installations, nuclear power, national parks, and historical monuments are no-fly zones.

  • Keep your drone from flying over sites of accidents, ongoing fire, or emergency services.

  • Don’t fly above 120m (400 feet) altitude or 50m (164 feet) above structures with a height of 100m (328 feet).

  • Maintain a line of sight with your drone throughout your flights. You may fly out of your sight range only if a visual observer is tracking your device.

  • Register any drone weighing 800g and above on Alpha Tango, the public portal for remotely piloted aircraft users.

  • Affix the number you receive on the drone permanently and visibly, allowing reading with naked eyes at a 30cm distance.

  • Provide proof of registration upon request by the authority.

  • Only fly your drone during daylight unless you have special permission from the local authority.

Commercial Laws

In addition to the general laws, here are other requirements for commercial drone fliers:

  • You must pass a theoretical exam Online or at DGAC facilities. Find the exam procedures here.

  • You must have a printed copy of the theoretical telephone certificate you receive after passing the exam throughout your flight.

  • Basic practical training is a requirement for commercial drone pilots. You must define and undertake additional training relevant to your drone type and target activities, after which you obtain a follow-up certificate.

  • Avoid producing a practical training certificate for yourself. 

Recreational Laws

Like their commercial counterparts, recreational drone pilots in France have additional requirements to consider:

  • You don’t need a training certificate if your drone weighs less than 800 grams, but you must have one from DGAC-recognized facilities FFAM or UFOLEP if your device is 800g and above.

Nation-Specified Laws

Although all EU countries use common drone laws to regulate their operations, each country can define certain aspects of its ordinances. France has the following:

  • The minimum age for a remote pilot is 14 years.
  • A drone map is recommended but not mandatory.
  • A pilot must have a flight restrictions map from the government.

What Are the Categories of Drone Flights in France?

The categories of drone flights in France include open, specific, and certified, depending on the risk associated with the specific drone operations and weight. They apply to commercial and recreation pilots, residents, and visitors.

Open Category

It’s a low-risk category and the primary reference for most leisure, low-risk commercial, and recreational drone activities. You can operate a drone in the open category if:

  • It can operate with a visual line of sight or get assistance from an Unmanned Aircraft (UA) observer.

  • Its purchase date is before January 1, 2023, and not in class identification labels 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4.

  • You won’t operate your drone above 120m (400 feet).

  • The drone’s class identification label is 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4.

  • Its maximum takeoff mass is less than 25kg (55 lbs).

  • You maintain a safe distance from people.

Flying a drone in this category requires no prior authorization or pilot’s declaration due to its low risk.

The open category is further subdivided into:

  • A1: Fly over people but not in large masses.
  • A2: Fly near people.
  • A3: Fly far from people.

Each subcategory has different requirements. Hence, it’s advisable to identify yours to determine the applicable laws.

Specific Category

This category is a moderate risk level, higher than the open category.  It’s the next step if your operations are beyond basic flying. 

You can conduct hobbies or work-related activities under this category. However, you can only do so under operational authorization from the FCAA due to the risk level.

Your permission depends on the mitigation measures identified during risk assessment. This excludes scenarios where your declaration is sufficient.

You must convince the authority by providing evidence that you’ll conduct safe and legal operations. 

Types of Authorization for the Specific Category

There are two types of authorizations, including the following: 

PDRA01 Operational Authorization:

It’s the simplest operational authorization type to apply. The permit allows you to fly UAVs below 25 kgs — within visual line of sight — in recreational, commercial, residential, and industrial areas. 

Some of the common reasons you may use PDRA01 include the following:

  • Surveying recreational sites.
  • Taking building photos.
  • Inspecting roofs.

You can learn more about PDRA, apply, or renew it here.

OSC-based Operational Authorisation: 

If your target operations aren’t under PDRA01, apply for the operation safety case (OSC) option.

Activities that may require this authorization include the following:

  • Operating beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOF).
  • Dropping materials from a drone.
  • Flying close to crowded places.

You can apply for the OSC authorization here.

Certified Category

The category requires drone certification and remote pilot licensing as it has the highest risk degree. It covers large-sized drones that can even carry people.

If your drone falls under this category, here is the registration platform.

What Precautions Should You Take to Fly a Drone in France?

If your drone weighs more than 250g or you want to take or order professional shots, you must use a French DGAC-declared civil drone. You should also have Civil Liability Insurance (RC).

Hence, ensure that your service provider has the appropriate certification and can provide the following documents voluntarily at the quotation stage:

  • Their registration number and CATT (Certificate of Theoretical Aptitude for Telepiloting).

  • A detailed estimate of the potential service they’ll conduct.

  • An air liability insurance certificate.

Conclusion 

The latest drone laws in France, as set by the EU, are well structured as general and flight-type (commercial and recreational) regulations.

The country also has a few national laws that govern drone operations only within its boundaries.

Author
Peter Karanja

Peter is a licensed drone pilot and drone fanatic. He owns a DJI Air 2S that he uses to shoot videos for fun, enjoyment and for clients.

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