Finesse Plus is the French aeromodelling association who is advocating for the rights of model aircraft leisure flying activities in open areas.
Spring is there and may be you start thinking to organise your next holidays in France bringing with you some of your models to perform leisure flights in our nice country.
This year a new regulation is applicable and this impacts all unmanned aircraft flights in France, including those performed with model aircraft for leisure. All model flyers shall comply with this regulation, not only French nationals but also foreign visitors. This regulation deals with pilots training and models registration.
Training certificate: All pilots must have a valid training certificate before flying a model weighing more than 800 grammes (takeoff mass).
This certificate is delivered by DGAC (French Civil Aviation Authority). It is free to obtain. To get this certificate, you have to go on the portal https://fox-alphatango.aviation-civile.gouv.fr/en/ and follow the four on-line training modules. When you think you are ready, you can start the test by answering to several questionnaires. If you fail, you are invited to perform the test again. Trials number is unlimited and you get your certificate only once you achieve 100% of good answers.
Print your certificate and take it with you wherever you fly.
Models registration: All models weighting more than 800 g at take-off shall be registered at DGAC.
The registration portal is https://alphatango.aviation-civile.gouv.fr/
Language can be selected bottom of the home page. To register a model you have to go though the following steps:
1- List of predefined models: The proposed list includes only drones. So, to register a model sailplane, or any other kind of model, select « Other » at top of list
2 – Type of aircraft: A list of various model types is proposed. Unfortunately, powered sailplanes are missing. Even if flight characteristics of powered sailplanes are similar to those of pure sailplanes, we strongly recommmend you select « motorized fixed wing » like for an airplane model. In case of control, it could be dificult for you to convince someone not skilled at all in aeromodelling that your fixed wing machine with a propeller is in fact a kind of glider and not an airplane. For your information, Finesse Plus asked DGAC to introduce « powered glider » into the list but answer is still pending.
3 – Manufacturer/Model name/ Serial Number/Mass range: Easy to do. Just follow the guidance information bubbles (« i » button) to fill the cells.
4 – Equipment: You will be asked to mention if your model is fitted with an image sensor (camera) or an autopilot. As in previous step, read carefully the related information before clicking the proposed options. You will notice that these features of equipment are those proposed by Finesse Plus to differentiate conventional model aircraft from drones.
Once your model registered, you get a registration certificate with the model identification: UAS-FR-XXXXXX
The registration certificate is also free to obtain.
Labelling your model
As for the training, print the certificate and take it with you wherever you fly your model. Also, apply on your model its identification number either by sticking a printed label or by simply writing it with an indelible felt pen. There are no specific requirements regarding location and size except that it must be outside of the model and legible at a minimum distance of 30 cm.
You should be aware that law enforcement bodies, in particular the Gendarmerie, can control you at any location where you fly and that you could be fined if you miss to present the required certificates. For your information, several controls have already taken place in various locations, including at model clubs fields.
Where to fly ?
If you do not plan to fly at a registered flight site of a model club, then you have to check if the area where you intend to fly is allowed and if specific height limits are applicable. This can be done by looking at the website : https://www.geoportail.gouv.fr/donnees/restrictions-pour-drones-de-loisir.
Unfortunately, this site is only in French and no English version is available. Colored zones are those where there are specifc flight restrictions for unmanned aircraft. This include height limitations around aerodromes (rectangular shaped zones).
– Red: Flights not authorised
– Pink: Maximum flight height: 30 m
– Orange: Maximum flight height: 50 m
– Yellow: Maximum flight height: 100 m
Everywhere else, the current general height limit of 150 m (500 ft) is applicable except at some club sites having an authorisation for higher limits.
It is also worth to note that flight restrictions mentioned on Geoportail are conservative to prevent infringements by remote pilots not well aware of aeronautic constraints, like many light drone users. Some restrictions can be lifted by looking to the official aeronautic information material, namely the French AIP (Aeronautical Information Publication) on the SIA public site: https://www.sia.aviation-civile.gouv.fr/ .
As an example, when the limitation is related to a « R » restricted airspace area (R-zone), it is possible this zone is only active at certain times and even fully inactive during the weekend. In such case, the height limits lower than 150 m do not apply at times the zone is inactive.
For your information, DGAC has confirmed to Finesse Plus that AIP prevails over Geoportail information when restrictions are linked to airspace organisation.
If you wish to check if a height limit is related to an airspace area, the first thing to do is to look at the ICAO VFR Chart. This is easy as this chart is available on Geoportail : https://www.geoportail.gouv.fr/carte
From top left of the page, open « Cartes -> Transports -> Carte OACI VFR ». The ICAO VFR chart will then be displayed as first image layer on the Geoportail map. Note than you can set the transparency level of each layer. To do that, click on top right icon which opens « Cartes en cours ». You will then see the list of layers. For each one, you can adjust the transparency level from the parameter icon (gear wheel).
After having identified the zones that generate height limitations you can check the activity schedules of these zones by opening the eAIP France on SIA site https://www.sia.aviation-civile.gouv.fr/ and looking in section ENR 5.1-1 « Prohibited, Restricted, Danger Areas ». Note that in section ENR 5.5 « Sporting and Recreational Activities » you could also find all the referenced aeromodelling spots linked to model clubs, some of them allowing flights above 150 m.
You have to click on eAIP FRANCE then download the latest version, which is the active one. Several updates are published per year.
Note also that contrarily to many countries, consultation of AIP is free in France. You can even download the whole file in PDF format.
Summary at a glance
- A) Pass your test and get your certificate https://fox-alphatango.aviation-civile.gouv.fr/en/
- B) Register and label your models https://alphatango.aviation-civile.gouv.fr/
- C) Check for height limitations on Geoportail if you plan to fly outside of model club sites https://www.geoportail.gouv.fr/donnees/restrictions-pour-drones-de-loisir
- D) Contact model club team if you plan to fly at a club site
Finesse Plus is sorry that you have to bear all these constraints when you come to fly in France but we think it is better that you are informed in advance to avoid unpleasant surprises during your next aeromodelling stay in our country.
What’s next ?
Unfortunately, that’s not the end of story as additional regulations are in the pipe. For your information, to counter terrorist threat, it is planned to require that all models above 800 g flying outside of registered sites be fitted with an electronic identification system. For nearly a year, Finesse Plus is fighting with the authorities to ensure that conventional models without camera or(and) autopilot are exempt of such a device wherever they fly, in particular in remote area away from sensitive locations. For the time being, this regulation is still pending and Finesse Plus will keep you informed if it becomes actually applicable.