Visiting pilots

The implementation of the new EU rules varies between Member States, and some Member States have not yet finalised their implementation. Some EU Member States have introduced national rules that are stricter than what is required under EU law. The below should therefore be considered a general guide only.

ALWAYS check with a local club or association on what rules apply before you go and fly in an EU Member State. The implementation page on our website may help with finding the required information, including the website of the national associations or the club where you intend to go flying.

Scope

When: The new EU legislation will apply from 31 December 2020

Where: The new EU legislation will apply in all 27 EU Member States and the European Economic Area (EEA, which includes  Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). This group of countries is referred to as “EU” or “EU countries” or “EU territory” in the below. The UK will apply rules closely based on the new EU legislation. Whether the UK rules will be recognised by the EU depends (e.g. whether UK registration is recognised) on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. It is currently unclear whether the EU rules will apply in Switzerland.

Step 1: Registration

Registration is mandatory for every pilot wishing to operate a model aircraft in the EU. Your registration is in principle valid for the entire EU territory.

If you are an EU resident (i.e. if you live in an EU country), you need to register in the country where you are a resident. This registration is valid throughout the EU, i.e. you only need to register once. Some national model aircraft associations will automatically register you as an individual pilot. In some countries, the association will register itself (i.e. the association is the registered entity, and pilots need to display the registration number of the association) and there is no need for the individual pilot who is a member or visitor with that association to register him/herself. Costs and validity of registration depend on the member state where you register and the association that you are a member of. Our implementation pages can help you identify the applicable registration procedure.

If your are NOT an EU resident (i.e. if you live in a country that is not a Member State of the EU, or European Economic Area), you need to register in the first country where you intend to go flying. Costs and validity of registration depend on the member state where you register. Our implementation pages can help you identify the applicable registration procedure.

Step 2: Display the registration number

Each pilot must display the registration number that he/she receives at the end of the registration procedure on his model aircraft. This can be done on the outside or inside of the aircraft, but must be easily accessible (i.e. without the use of tools). Some Member States may have specific rules on where this registration number is to be displayed, and also on the material of the plaque with the registration number. Our implementation pages can help you identify country-specific requirements for displaying the registration number.

Step 3: Identify what national rules you will fly under

This is the most complex part. The EU legislation allows pilots that fly “in the framework of model aircraft clubs and associations” to continue to fly under existing national rules (except for the registration obligation) until 1 January 2023. Pilots that do not fly within this framework must comply with the so-called “open category” rules, which are set out in the EU legislation.

So what is “in the framework of”?

The application of this term depends on each Member State. For most Member States it includes members of national clubs and associations. Some Member States limit this to members of national clubs and associations flying on recognised club airfields only. Some Member States allow guests pilots (tourists, competitions) to fly under this “framework”, regardless whether this is on or outside club airfields. Some clubs and associations automatically, or through a simple registration, provide guest membership for visiting pilots, also allowing them to operate within this framework. Our implementation pages can help you identify how individual countries apply “in the framework of” in practice, and what national rules apply if you can fly within this “framework”.

What rules apply if I am able to fly “in the framework of” a club or association?

Until 1 January 2023, existing national rules continue to apply (with the exception of the new registration obligation). Our implementation pages can help you identify what these rules are for the country you wish to visit.

For the period after 1 January 2023, Member States can provide clubs or associations with an authorisation that sets out specific rules for operations within their framework.

What rules apply for activities outside “the framework of national model aircraft clubs and associations”?

When you cannot fly your model aircraft under this framework, the open category rules of the EU legislation apply. This includes a height limit of 120m, a mandatory training and examination, location limits, as well as age limits.

Most model aircraft pilots will fly in the so-called A3 category, and will thus need to do the open category training for that category. This mandatory training and examination can be obtained online in any EU Member State. The resulting certificate is valid throughout the EU for 5 years. As you are free to choose where you wish to absolve your training and many Member States offer this training free of charge, it’s worth checking various options before deciding where you will do your training. An overview of some of the training options and their costs can be found in this table.

A summary of the open category rules can be found here.