Drone Flight Frankfurt
Where you are allowed to fly with a drone and what to watch out for.
Some of the SKYLINE ATLAS authors not only produce articles and pictures about the skyline, they also fly regularly in the Greater Frankfurt area and beyond with a quadrocopter or multicopter. As drone pilots in Frankfurt, they know exactly what is legally important.
It was not uncommon for the SKYLINE ATLAS to receive several inquiries per week from people who would like to film the skyline with their own drone and have questions about this. That’s why we wrote this article on flying with a drone in Frankfurt.
In reality, there are some hurdles between the desire to fly and the legal requirements. However, if you master all legal and technical hurdles, the sky is open. Ignoring laws and important framework conditions can result in fines, accidents, and claims for damages. This article is intended for everyone who wants to get basic information accordingly.
Just to make you aware: There are no generally applicable answers to the topic of drones, because every single flight with a copter depends on many factors. In this respect, this article serves only as an introduction to the topic. Those interested can also take part in one of our meetups for drone pilots to learn more about this topic.
You need a name tag and a valid insurance.
You can rent or buy a drone quickly: But what exactly are the first steps until you can fly over Frankfurt with the drone? What is important for other types of vehicles also goes for drones: practicing makes you perfect. Before you start flying as a newcomer, you should definitely gain practical experience. The best way to gain flying experiences is where you don’t bother anyone: in an uninhabited area. Because everyone can simply fly if the aircraft does not weight more than 2 kilograms.
A drone is a marvel of technology, and this technology – even after years of use – can always surprise the pilot with new error messages or malfunctions. It is therefore advisable to know your aircraft well and to fly regularly. Without constant training, you quickly forget important actions, become hectic when problems occur and you risk a crash.
Before you can take off formally, you need a fireproof name tag on the drone (including a copy of the owner and the mobile number). In addition, a drone insurance (content in German) is required by law so that regulation is possible in the event of a claim. It is best to get early advice from an insurance broker (content in German) skilled in such questions. That’s important, because in some liability insurances, a drone cover is already included. In relevant drone forums and blogs you will find tips on the legal requirements, so we assume that you as a pilot have already completed these steps. If you want to publish your drone recordings on the Internet, whether they are sold or not, it is a commercial use that requires a commercial drone insurance.
Where you basically can’t fly
As a drone pilot, you are generally not allowed to fly over or along traffic routes in Germany (not on or over federal highways, motorways and/or rivers). In addition, a drone flight over residential areas, at airports, industrial plants, gatherings of people and nature reserves is prohibited. A drone flight over 100 meters above ground is also not permitted.
If you have found a place where you want to fly, it is important to clarify the specific ascent rights. Because you can only take off/land where you have received an explicit permit for your drone flight. This can be a private property owner or the public sector. Strictly speaking, if there is no such permit, you cannot take off or land.
Before you actually fly
Preparation is the be-all and end-all of drone flying
If you have collected at least a few dozen practical flight hours, you can venture into the urban environment. While in cities like Berlin or New York City there is a general ban on drones in the city center, there is no such restriction in Frankfurt. This means that any average person could theoretically fly a drone anywhere. But: There are numerous areas in Mainhattan with a control zone or other specific flight restrictions, which as a whole make flying in the city center impossible or at least severely restricted without a special permit.
The runways of the international airport of Frankfurt are located relatively close to the city center in the south. The airspace around Frankfurt Airport is therefore reserved for aircrafts. For this reason there is a control zone above Frankfurt city center (shown in light blue on the map). In this control zone you can only fly your drone up to 50 meters high, regardless of other restrictions.
Such further restrictions are, for example:
- at least 100 meters away from traffic routes (e.g. motorways, the Main river, federal roads, train routes)
- at least 100 meters away from industrial plants
- at least 100 meters away from public buildings (e.g. police, ECB locations)
- at least 500 meters away from heliports (e.g. large hospitals)
- at least 1500 meters away from any airport boundary
Be also aware: In the areas marked reddish on the map, you definitely cannot start without a special permit.
The further you are away from Downtown Frankfurt, the greater the likelihood is that you can practically fly there without a special permit. However, it is still a big problem to find out whether you can take off at the chosen location. Apps like Map2Fly and DFS Drohnen can help here. But these apps only serve as an indication of where you can fly. Because there is not a 100% certainty that the information is up-to-date, correct and complete. Because of the given restrictions, this means that a drone flight in Frankfurt is practically only possible north of the A 66 motorway, this means a few kilometers north of the Financial District and the famous skyline.
Flight in Restricted Areas
Drone flights in Downtown Frankfurt.
Like at school: future drone pilots during their theoretical training at the Eisenschmidt training center (in Egelsbach near Frankfurt, part of the DFS Group – German Air Traffic Control). After completing the training, a written test must be taken and passed.
If you, as a drone pilot, do not want to be deterred by the flight restrictions in Downtown Frankfurt, there is only one way to officially fly: You need a special permit from the responsible rgional council (in German: Regierungspräsidium) which is located in the city of Darmstadt.
General Take-Off Permit
The general operating permit (in German: Allgemeine Aufstiegsgenehmigung) allows the drone pilot to be exempt from individual restrictions to which all other people are subject without a special permit. These restrictions are the operation of a drone …
- over residential property;
- at less than 100 meters sideways from crowds;
- above and in less than 100 meters at a lateral distance from federal trunk roads, federal waterways and railway systems;
- in natural reserves.
One or more of these restrictions can be removed by submitting an application for exemption from flight exemptions (PDF, in German language). However, you should carefully consider where you want to fly before applying. An administrative fee of 100 euros is payable for removing each of these four restrictions. The approval of such a general operating license is valid for two years from the date of approval and also requires a proof of knowledge for drones. This drone license can be obtained, for example, by proof of knowledge from Eisenschmidt GmbH (German Air Traffic Control Group) in Egelsbach. The online tests offered by DMFV are not sufficient for this and is not accepted by the Regional Council Darmstadt (Regierungspräsidium Darmstadt).
Special Ascent Permit
The general exemptions mentioned before allow experienced drone pilots to fly over rail lines, federal highways and residential areas, for example. Nevertheless, you are bound to a maximum flight altitude within the Frankfurt control zone (flight up to a maximum of 50 meters). If you want to fly at a height of more than 50 meters, you have to register at least two weeks before the flight with the Regional Council Darmstadt (Regierungspräsidium Darmstadt) and have it approved.
For such an individual permit to exempt from operating bans, like a flight in a control zone above 50 meters, you have to apply to the relevant governmental bureau (PDF, in German). This application must include the exact departure location, the planned flight time and the purpose. To apply for the individual permit, you must already have a general ascent permit for the federal state concerned (as described above). For every exemption from the law, 100 euros are incurred. So it may be that a single exemption can cost 200 euros or more with the Regional Council. If the Regional Council Darmstadt approves a drone flight by individual permit, shortly before the drone flight you have to request the final release from Tower Frankfurt by phone (the air traffic control).
Beam me up, Scotty.
An ascent permit is always necessary.
A professional drone with Zenmuse Z30 lens from the market leader DJI: This drone quickly costs as much as a mid-range car.
A drone always needs a place of departure and a landing site. If you have permission for the flight from the property owner, you are fine and in the best case you can expect no further costs. However, it is different if you want to start on public terrain. Then you have to apply for a paid ascent permit early enough, depending on where you want to start.
Taking Off in a Green Area
If you want to start your drone in a park or a green area, the Frankfurt Green Area Office (Grünflächenamt Frankfurt) is responsible for it (firstname.lastname@example.org). As a drone pilot, you have to apply for a special use permit at least three weeks before the scheduled departure date. There is a form for drone flights (PDF, in German) for take-offs and landings from green spaces in the city of Frankfurt.
Start over the Main river
If the starting or landing location of the drone is very close to or above the Main river, then the Aschaffenburg Water and Shipping Office (Wasser- und Schifffahrtsamt Aschaffenburg) is responsible (email@example.com). In this case, you have to apply for a fee-based ascent permit at least three weeks before the flight.
Flight from Public Roads
The Frankfurt Regulatory Office (Ordnungsamt Frankfurt) is generally responsible for all other public take-off and landing sites in Frankfurt (firstname.lastname@example.org). If the take-off place is on a street, on the banks of the Main river or a square, then a special use permit must be applied for at the service center event in the public order office two weeks before the scheduled flight date. The cost is 158 euros per departure point. In general, you must not take off from or land on sidewalks. An application for a special permit is best made according to information from the regulatory office after initial telephone contact with the regulatory office: +49 69 / 212-77408
The Frankfurt Regulatory Office continues to offer an “annual shooting permit”. This costs 300 euros and means that recordings on/from public areas are permitted (this is not a general ascent permit for drones).
Tip: When submitting an application for a drone flight, always enter a time window (e.g. “March 21 between 12PM and 3PM”). You can also optionally specify an alternative date when applying, for example if the weather is bad. This replacement date should ideally be a few days later than the original date in order to minimize weather-related reasons for a flight cancellation. We have also heard that a series of replacement appointments has been approved (e.g. “Flight on a day between June 3rd and June 6th, between 12 noon and 2PM”).
Don't forget: inform the authorities!
Every drone flight must be declared to the city police at least 48 hours before the flight will take place, usually by email. Shortly before the drone flight, the police must be notified of the drone flight by phone. The information of the authorities is mandatory by law.
Frankfurt Drone Flight
This skyline photo could not have been taken without special permission from the Darmstadt Regional Council (Regierungspräsidium Darmstadt) and approval from the University Hospital’s aviation security officer. The drone flight took place at several intersecting exclusion areas: 1) over the river, 2) next to railway lines, 3) next to an industrial plant, and 4) near a helipad.
Questions and Answers on Drone Flights in Frankfurt
Can everyone fly with a drone?
There is no statutory minimum age for a drone flight. Due to the complexity of the flight restrictions and the dense development, only adults should fly in Frankfurt.
How high can you fly with the drone in Germany and especially in Frankfurt?
As a rule, you can fly with a drone in Germany to a height of 100 meters. In the city center of Frankfurt, flights are only permitted up to a height of 50 meters due to the control zone. Due to the many other restrictions, you generally need a general ascent permit from the Darmstadt Regional Council (Regierungspräidium Darmstadt). If you want to fly above 50 meters, you need an individual permit from the Darmstadt Regional Council (Regierungspräidium Darmstadt) in addition to the general ascent permit.
I want to fly higher than 50 meters. Is that possible?
In Frankfurt you can only start in the city center with a general ascent permit issued by the Regional Council. If you have this permanent license as a drone pilot, but an altitude of up to 50 meters (164 feet) is not sufficient, you can be exempted from this height restriction by the Darmstadt Regional Council. This fee-based exemption must be applied for in writing or in text form at least 10 days before the flight and allows flights up to 100 meters (328 feet). If this altitude is not sufficient either, this limitation can also be waived in return for an additional fee-based exemption. Before flying at all, you have to call the police. In any case, for flights above 50 meters (164 feet) you must inform Tower Frankfurt (German air traffic control) by telephone a few minutes before the actual flight, including the flight permission number issued to you by the Regional Council.
If there is no clearance for the drone flight and a third party reports this, the result can be that passenger planes are diverted at Frankfurt Airport, or flights are canceled entirely. According to the police, in the event of an unauthorized drone flight, a police helicopter is also usually called to the scene. These costs will be invoiced to the perpetrator, regardless of any criminal consequences. We also know that authorities analyze video material on platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, etc. to find out whether flights took place legally and, if necessary, to determine the originator.
In plain language, this means: Do not fly with your drone from Frankfurt if the drone flight is not planned or permits are missing. Anyone who has a drone license but is unsure should take part in one of our drone meetups in Frankfurt.
What else do I have to consider if I want to officially fly the drone in Frankfurt?
Observe the personal rights of people and other rights holders. For example, you may not spy on gardens, take pictures of people without asking, or take pictures of certain structures. This issue is particularly problematic if you subsequently publish this content on the Internet.
Also make sure that you don’t fly too close to buildings (rule of thumb: at least 15 meters away). Drones are very susceptible to facade reflections and can easily become unmaneuverable. In such a case, copters fly uncontrollably and can crash against obstacles without the pilot being able to influence flight behavior. In such cases, there is a risk of total drone loss, ground injuries, claims for damages and criminal charges. In the event of an accident damage, your drone insurance could also claim that you acted deliberately, which could result in the loss of your insurance coverage.
What is an ascent permit?
An ascent permit is a permit to launch a drone (usually equivalent to a landing permit if you land where you started). This approval is required from the respective property owner, from whose property the drone actually takes off or lands. This approval can be given verbally to the pilot and does not have to be presented anywhere. If the drone’s ascent point is on private property, approval is required from the private property owner. However, if you start from public grounds, the ascent authorization must be obtained from the respective city to which the site belongs. Such an approval for a drone flight represents a special use of a public area and is issued by the responsible Public Order Office (for example, when your drone is taking of from a place owned by the public). In Frankfurt it is not the Public Order Office that is responsible for issuing permits to ascent in parks, but the Green Spaces Office (Grünflächenamt Frankfurt). Please note that the granting of such an approval usually requires at least two weeks’ notice.
If you fly the drone in an area of Frankfurt, for example over a river, you also need a general ascent permit from a Regional Council of the respective federal state in addition to the ascent permit from the property owner (in Hesse, the Regional Council of Darmstadt and the Regional Council of Kassel are responsible for issuing such a permit, depending where you reside). Issuing the ascent permit cannot be refused by the Regional Council as long as the requirements for fulfilling the approval requirements are met. You can apply for this approval by e-mail by sending in the scanned application documents, but you will receive an answer in writing by post (and, if necessary, also in text form by email).
If, for example, you also want to exceed the legally stipulated maximum height of 50 meters within the Frankfurt control zone, the general ascent permit is no longer sufficient. In this case, you also have to apply for an individual permit at the Regional Council responsible for Frankfurt (Darmstadt). You can apply for this approval by email by sending in the scanned application documents, but you will receive an answer in writing by post (and, if necessary, also in text form by email).
All permits issued by the Regional Council Darmstadt (Regierungspräsidium Darmstadt) must be carried on the day of the flight, along with the identity card, drone driver’s license and a copy of the drone’s insurance certificate. This is because these documents can be requested for inspection by the police or any other regulatory body in case they inspect you while you perform a flight.
During what weather conditions or time of day should you fly?
It’s completely obvious that the best pictures are taken with a drone during good weather conditions. In particular, avoid flights with your multicopter if it is too windy. Because then a drone can spin.
The best drone photos and drone films are made when you fly at sunset or at sunrise. The best way to follow the current weather over the Frankfurt skyline is via the Frankfurt Skyline Webcam from Hi.Res.Cam.
Are drone laws the same everywhere?
No, the laws for handling drones are not uniformly regulated due to their history. So far, there is no uniform regulation for handling copters at European or even international level. Therefore, for example, the German drone license has no relevance or acceptance in other countries. The EU recently adopted a uniform legal framework for dealing with UAVs. These new drone regulations before 2021. The restrictions described on this page still apply to Frankfurt. Further information on the new EU drone regulation can be found on the Internet.