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Flying a drone in France: What you need to know

The Local France
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Flying a drone in France: What you need to know
A man flies a drone during a demonstration at the 1st 'Drones Paris Region Expo' fair south of Paris in 2018. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

Hoping to capture special moments like your upcoming hiking vacation or your friend's wedding with your newly purchased drone? Well, according to French rules for drone usage, you might not be allowed to do so, as recreational drones are highly regulated in France. 


On January 1st, 2021, the flying of recreational drones in France became subject to regulations developed by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which aims to simplify and standardise the rules for all countries in the European Union.

But in France, the rules for owning and operating recreational drones were already quite strict. Most regulations apply across the board to drone owners and users, while some additional rules depend on when you purchased your drone and its size.

Here is what you need to know if you bought a drone and plan to operate it on French territory:

Determining your drone's category

When purchasing your drone, you were likely informed of which category it fits into. Drones purchased before 2021 fall into categories based on weight, and drones purchased after 2021 also fall into categories by weight, but these are defined by groups ranging from "C0" to "C4."


Class C0 groups the least dangerous devices, and class C3 is for the most dangerous. Class C4 concerns devices that are similar to "radio-modeling, without electronic assistance to piloting."

Every drone sold after January 1st, 2023 will have to be CE marked with class indication. The only exceptions will be for privately built aircraft.


To operate a recreational drone, you must be at least 14 years old.

The only exceptions to this are if you built the drone yourself and it weighs less than 250 grams (this applies to pre-2021 drones). Under 14's can also operate drones if they are accompanied by a certified drone operator who is at least 16 years old themselves.


There are several locations across France where drones are either strictly regulated or completely prohibited, such as near airports or military bases.

You can check to see whether there are height regulations, or whether using your drone entirely, is allowed in your location with this interactive map developed by the civil aviation authority in France. Click HERE


In France, recreational drones are not allowed to fly higher than 120 metres in height. As the user, you must always have your drone in sight, as well. The reason behind this rule is to ensure that the user maintains complete control of the drone, and that it is not lost due to strong winds or unexpected weather.

Registration and identification

Registering your drone depends on whether or not it is equipped with a recording device. If so, then you must register the drone with the civil aviation authority. Keep in mind this rule applies to the majority of drones - both those purchased prior to and after 2021.

You can do so HERE. Registration is typically valid for a maximum of five years. If you fail to register your drone and you are required to, then you could incur a fine of up to €750. 


Additionally, if your drone is pre-2021 and weighs more than 800 grams, then it must be equipped with an electronic alert device that broadcasts the identity of your drone at regular intervals while it is in flight.

Some drones purchased after-2021 must also be outfitted with a 'remote identification system.' You can read more HERE.  

Respect for privacy and filming people

All people in proximity of the drone must be informed about whether the device is capable of recording them in any way.

Images that can be used to identify people (faces, licence plates, etc) are not allowed unless the person has given you their permission. Recreational drones also cannot be used for commercial or professional purposes.

The French government outlines that in the case of the violation of privacy, by capturing, recording or broadcasting images or words of people without their consent, you risk incurring one year of imprisonment or a fine of up to €45,000. 

Flying in urban areas

Even if you launch your drone from your personal garden or a private space, you are still not permitted to fly it above public spaces when in a 'built up area.' If you have any doubts about what is considered a 'built up area', you can always refer to the interactive map above. 


Flying during the day

Recreational drones must be operated during daytime hours and are not permitted to be operated at night time. This applies even to those who have a proper kit for night time flying. "Night" is defined by the aeronautical night, which is the period thirty minutes after sunset until thirty minutes before sunrise.

Flying directly over people and sensitive sites

Most drones are not permitted to fly directly over people, as the loss of control could be dangerous for the people on the ground.

You must keep a safe distance from people and vehicles. The exact distance depends on the size of your drone - the heaviest drones must keep a distance of at least 150 metres away from residential, commercial, industrial and recreational areas. 

You are also not permitted to your drone near sensitive sites, such as airports, airfields, power plants, or high security locations. Doing so risks up to six months imprisonment, a fine ranging from €15,000 to €75,000, and the confiscation of your drone.

Required training

If your drone is a pre-2021 model and it weighs less than 250 grams, then you do not need to enroll in a course. However, if your pre-2021 drone is heavier than 250 grams then you must take an online class on how to operate it safely. 

For newer models, those drones marked CO are not required to take the training course, but it is recommended. For drones marked C1 through C4, the course is required. You can find it HERE.


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