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Drone on board: What licenses are required when operating a drone?

Drone license: EU drone license / the EU certificate of competence
A beautiful picture of your own boat or harbor from the air - when is a so-called "drone license" required?

Flying a drone from a boat or in the harbor to get a bird’s eye view of photos and moving images is no longer unusual. Who is allowed to launch which drone at which location, and what needs to be observed, is clarified by the new EU drone regulation, which came into force for all drone pilots on January 1, 2021. Skipper tip for the successful trip from the SeaHelp editorial team.

A beautiful picture of your own boat from the air – that is appealing and from today’s point of view nothing unusual anymore, because the flight technology including built-in (or attached) camera is now affordable for everyone.



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The EU drone regulation requires a drone driver’s license

But not every owner of a drone is allowed to just launch his aircraft and fly off – who is allowed to do what with which device, where it is allowed to fly and in which cases which “drone driver’s license” (actually: proof of sufficient knowledge to control unmanned aerial vehicles) is required, this is regulated by the EU Drone Regulation (EU-DVO) since January 1, 2021.

The regulation regulates the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles in four classes (C0 to C4) of the open category and divides the so-called drone licenses into categories A1 to A3. This aligned the regulations for participation in the airspace and simplified the operation in other European countries.

Proof of competence: safely control a drone with the small drone driving license

The EU BER distinguishes between two types of the new EU drone driving license: the EU certificate of competence – also called: small drone driving license (EU) A1/A3, and the EU remote pilot certificate – also called: large drone driving license (EU) A2.

The small EU drone driving license / the EU certificate of competence is a compact drone driving license online training followed by a test and an online exam. This training is designed to ensure that the drone pilot has the necessary basic knowledge to safely control a UAV (unmanned aerial system – i.e. his drone).

The test consists of two levels and approximately 40 multiple-choice questions to be completed online. To successfully complete the test, 75 percent of the questions must be answered correctly. First there is a training test. This can be repeated online as often as desired. After successful completion, one is admitted to the online test. This driver’s license test has a validity of five years and must then be repeated or refreshed.

EU Remote Pilot Certificate: the large drone license for large drones and special cases

The large EU drone license / the EU remote pilot certificate is more extensive. The prerequisite here is the previous completion of the small drone pilot license. In addition, a practical self-training (in the open field) must be carried out. It is sufficient to confirm in writing that this training has been carried out. In addition, a theory test must be taken at a certified testing center.

The theory examination consists of 30 multiple-choice questions from the three specialist areas of air law, meteorology and flight operations and navigation. After successful completion of the exam, the EU pilot certificate can be applied for at the responsible aviation authority. This certificate / the large EU drone pilot’s license also has a validity of 5 years and must then be repeated or refreshed.

No driving license for small toy drones without camera

By the way, an EU drone license is not necessary in all cases, for example if the drone weighs less than 250 grams (self-built or class C0), is a toy and does not carry any sensor technology such as cameras. Again, however, flight over uninvolved persons must be avoided, and the drone must not fly over groups of people.

Under EU unification, which came into effect in Germany in January 2021, operators must register and attach an ID number to the drone. For new drones, it is planned that they can be identified by radio. Details can be found in the EU Drone Regulation. Exceptions apply in Switzerland. Attention: for drones there is a liability insurance obligation!

Caution: the respective national law applies!

Generally applies: who wants to fly a drone, should deal with the respective state law, which regulates the transformation of the EU Regulation into national law, before the operation. Overview of the UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) classes C0 to C4 of the open category.


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