Flying a drone in France is legal if you follow the drone regulations outlined by the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). This guide covers everything you need to know about recreational and commercial drone laws and restrictions in France.
France has specific drone laws that recreational and commercial pilots must follow. All drones over 800g must be registered, and pilots must maintain visual line of sight. Drones cannot be flown at night, over people, or near airports without authorization. Pilots must pass an exam and get certified to fly commercially. There are also rules for maximum heights and distances.
This guide covers France’s drone regulations in detail, including registration, pilot certifications, height limits, no fly zones, and more. Read on to learn the key requirements before flying your drone in France.
Overview of Drone Laws in France
Here is a quick summary of the main drone regulations in France:
- Drones over 800g must be registered with the DGAC. The registration number must be clearly displayed.
- Recreational pilots of drones 800g+ must take DGAC-approved training. Commercial pilots must pass a theory exam and get certified.
- A visual line of sight must be maintained, or visual observer used.
- Drones cannot be flown at night, over people, or near airports without authorization.
- There are height and distance limits for how high and far drones can fly.
- France has specific no fly zones like private property, military areas, historic sites, and national parks.
Always check the current rules before flying as regulations frequently update. Fines for violations can be up to €75,000. Contact the DGAC with any questions.
Drone Registration in France
France requires all drones weighing 800g or more to be registered with the DGAC. This applies to both recreational and commercial drones.
The steps for registration are:
- Create an account on the AlphaTango drone registration portal.
- Enter your drone details like model, weight, and serial number.
- Pay a small registration fee online.
- Print your registration certificate with unique ID number.
- Affix the ID number visibly on your drone.
The registration is valid for 5 years before renewal is required. Failing to register drones over 800g can result in fines up to €450.
Having the ID number properly displayed proves the drone is registered if questioned by authorities. Carry your registration certificate when flying too.
Drone Pilot Certification in France
France requires pilots to be certified and trained in order to fly drones, especially for commercial use.
Recreational Drone Pilots
For recreational flying of drones 800g+, pilots must take training approved by the DGAC. This can be through the DGAC directly or organizations like the FFAM or UFOLEP. No certificate is needed for drones under 800g.
Commercial Drone Pilots
To fly drones commercially in France, pilots must:
- Pass the DGAC theory exam to get a telepilote certificate. Study materials are available online.
- Undergo practical flight training tailored to operations.
- Obtain a training certificate from the organization that provided instruction.
The theory exam covers airspace restrictions, meteorology, flight performance, operational procedures, and more. It results in a 5-year telepilote certificate.
Practical training teaches how to operate the specific drones and perform activities in the field safely. Commercial pilots cannot provide their own training.
Carry all certificates during commercial flights as proof of qualifications.
Visual Line of Sight Rules in France
A key regulation is that drone pilots must keep their aircraft within visual line of sight (VLOS) at all times. This means clearly seeing the drone with your own eyes, not through a monitor or smartphone.
The only exception is having a visual observer who can see the drone and communicate with the pilot. But the pilot must still be able to take over manually if needed.
First-person view (FPV) goggles can be used but a second person must watch the drone and surroundings.
Violating the VLOS rule risks fines up to €75,000 and 1 year imprisonment. Maintain a safe distance from people and property even if VLOS is maintained.
Night Flying Restrictions in France
Recreational pilots are prohibited from flying drones at night under French regulations. This is generally defined as 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise.
Exceptions for commercial night flights may be granted after submitting an authorization request to the local prefect at least 5 days in advance. Requirements like lighting and anti-collision lights must be met.
Urgent situations like search and rescue can warrant exceptions too but authorities still must be informed.
Maximum Altitudes for Flying Drones in France
French drone laws limit how high drones can fly to prevent collisions with manned aircraft. Recreational drones are limited to:
- 120 meters (400 feet) overall
- 50 meters (164 feet) above any structure over 100 meters tall
So a drone cannot go over 50 meters above a 150 meter tower, for example.
Commercial operators can submit requests to exceed standard altitude limits for special circumstances. Proper safety measures must be taken.
Drone pilots should always remain below 120 meters unless special authorization is secured. Fly at lower safe altitudes near airports.
Drone No Fly Zones in France
French regulations prohibit flying drones over certain locations without permission. This includes:
- Airports and airfields
- Military bases and installations
- Prisons and penitentiaries
- Nuclear power plants
- National parks and nature reserves
- Historic monuments and sites
- Private property
- Sites with large gatherings of people
- Emergency and accident response areas
Drone pilots should check each area on an up-to-date map before flying. Software like AirMap provides guidance on temporary restrictions too.
Operate drones far away from no fly zones. Penalties for unauthorized flights in restricted airspace are steep.
Distance Limits for Drone Flight in France
Along with vertical limits, French drone laws also enforce horizontal distance restrictions.
Recreational drones must remain within:
- 120 meters of the pilot/observer
Commercial drones are allowed further distances but complex steps like observer networks or detect and avoid systems must be implemented.
Maintaining visual line of sight essentially acts as a distance limit too, since the drone cannot be flown farther than the pilot can clearly see.
Flying out of visual range without proper authorizations can lead to legal issues. Even within visual range, keep a safe distance from people and property.
Want to get a feel for the kind of footage you could get flying a drone in France? Here you go:
Flying drones in France is enjoyable when done legally and safely. All pilots should register drones, obtain certificates, avoid no fly zones, and follow the height and distance rules. Regulations continue to evolve so check for updates from the DGAC before each flight. Contact us or French authorities with any other drone law questions. Bon vol!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a license to fly a drone in France?
You do not need a license, but drones over 800g must be registered. Recreational pilots need training, while commercial pilots need a theory exam certificate.
Can I fly my drone anywhere in France?
No, you must avoid restricted locations like airports, private property, and historic sites unless given authorization.
How high can I fly my drone in France?
Recreationally, 120 meters overall and 50 meters above structures over 100 meters tall. Commercially, higher with approval.
Can I fly my drone in cities in France?
Yes, but stay away from crowds and buildings. Get permits if needed from local authorities like the police prefecture.
What is the fine for illegally flying a drone in France?
Fines range from €45 to €75,000 euros depending on the violation. 1 year imprisonment is also possible for some offenses.