Flying without Permission
Drones in the “open” operating category can generally fly without a permit if the weight is less than 25 kg takeoff mass and there is direct visual contact throughout the flight.
However, for the “special” category, an operating license, operating declaration, or a Light Unmanned aircraft operator Certificate (LUC) is required. This category primarily includes commercial drone operations, meaning that a license or declaration is always required for commercial use.
A declaration is less complex than an operating license. It is sufficient if the following criteria can be met:
The pilot flies with a UA with a maximum characteristic dimension (e.g., wingspan or rotor diameter) of
- up to 3 m in VLOS above a controlled area on the ground, but not above crowds,
- up to 1 m in VLOS, but not above crowds,
- up to 1 m in BVLOS, over sparsely populated areas,
- up to 3 m in BVLOS, above a controlled area on the ground,
- below 120 m altitude and above controlled airspace (i.e., not airspace F or G).
Only a legal entity, e.g., an organization or a company, can apply for a LUC certificate. The certificate can be equated with a permanent operating permit.
Flying in the third operating category, “subject to approval,” also requires a permit, as even stricter requirements for conducting a flight apply here.
The application’s costs can vary depending on the federal state and can be inquired at the respective state aviation authority.
In any case, if you fly without a permit, you will face much higher costs in the form of fines of up to €50,000.
You can find more information about permits and the LUC certificate here on the website of the German Federal Aviation Authority.