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What is the maximum altitude I'm allowed to fly a model plane or 'copter in Germany?

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  • $\begingroup$ I think it depends on which flight rules you are under (VFR, IFR?) and the classification of german airspace. If you provide some more context someone will be able to provide the exact figures. $\endgroup$ – orique Aug 24 '14 at 19:31
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    $\begingroup$ @orique: A model plane. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Aug 24 '14 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ @janhudec oops, I must read twice... $\endgroup$ – orique Aug 24 '14 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ You might want to generalize the question to what regulations you have to follow. There may be other restrictions regarding flying close to airports and such. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Aug 25 '14 at 5:56
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    $\begingroup$ You need to consider the local airports too and with those I doubt place that is 70km away from nearest airport even exists in Germany. Though what really matters is the airspace classes. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Aug 27 '14 at 6:11
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The maximum altitude you can operate your RC plane or copter vertically without any clearance from ATC or another government body is the upper limit of class G airspace in Germany, which is the first available airspace from GND to the lower vertical limit of controlled airspace C/D/E, which can be 2.500ft AGL1, 1.700ft AGL or 1.000ft AGL, depending on surrounding airspace and airports in the vicinity. You can register at the website of the DFS AIS to obtain the ICAO charts for your area and take a look at the airspace structure near you.

The actual ceiling of airspace G can be significantly lower in the vicinity of larger airports, where the controlled airspace C/D/E has been lowered. The below picture shows how the dark green section around Frankfurt Airport has an airspace C with the vertical limits 1.500ft (MSL)/FL100. The airspace E in that area (not visible in this picture) has a vertical limit of 1.000ft AGL/C. Some areas within that section already have an elevation of 700-1100ft MSL, which leaves less than 100-400ft of airspace G before the overlying airspace C begins.

Airspace C around EDDF / Image Source: FL95.de

If you want to get your RC plane or copter into class C/D/E airspace, which is controlled airspace, you will need to obtain a clearance through the ATC unit in control of the sector or the FIS sector responsible, as postulated in LuftVO §16a

§ 16a LuftVO
Besondere Benutzung des kontrollierten Luftraums

(1) Bei Inanspruchnahme des kontrollierten Luftraums ist von der zuständigen Flugverkehrskontrollstelle eine Flugverkehrskontrollfreigabe einzuholen für

1. Fallschirmsprünge und den Abwurf von Gegenständen an Fallschirmen;

2. Aufstiege von Flugmodellen und anderen fern- oder ungesteuerten Flugkörpern mit Eigenantrieb;

3. Aufstiege von unbemannten Freiballonen mit einer Gesamtmasse von Ballonhülle und Ballast von mehr als 0,5 kg sowie Aufstiege von gebündelten unbemannten Freiballonen und Massenaufstiege von unbemannten Freiballonen.

Please also mind LuftVO §15a, which dictactes that any RC plane or UAV needs to remain within the visbility range of the controller, so the maximum altitude can vary depending on the size of your RC plane or copter, the weather minima at your location and your own eyesight:

(3) Der Betrieb von unbemannten Luftfahrtsystemen ist verboten, wenn

1. er außerhalb der Sichtweite des Steuerers erfolgt oder

2. die Gesamtmasse des Geräts mehr als 25 Kilogramm beträgt.

1: AGL = Above Ground Level 2: MSL = Mean Sea Level

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Future readers should be careful, due to the increased usage of quadcopter drones and first reports about incidences with them emerging, this is about to change.
The currently proposed draft for a new law adds requirements like:

  • strict altitude restrictions
  • plaque stating the name and address of owner/operator
  • drone pilot license

depending on the starting weight of the drone / RC model (in the following UAVs for unmanned aerial vehicle).

Because this has (to my knowledge) not been decided conclusively, here's an example as to how I remember a TV news report on the law's current draft:

  • UAVs up to 250g starting weight, 100m max altitude, no plaque or license needed
  • UAVs above 250g starting weight, 100m max altitude, plaque indicating name and address but no license needed
  • UAVs above 5-10kg (I'm really unsure about this number) additional license needed but altitude restriction is regulated according to airspace classification, which is taught in the process to acquire the license.

I bolded what I think will be the answer applying to OP in a few months time.

In close proximity to airports you're already disallowed to fly anything unless you have license and ATC clearing.

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  • $\begingroup$ If you have more concrete info, feel free to edit the post, e.g. with sources, when the law has passed legislation. Please keep in mind this all applies to Germany. $\endgroup$ – NoAnswer Feb 21 '17 at 11:29
  • $\begingroup$ The problem about this answer is that, as you say, this is about a proposed draft, that could change endless times before turning into law (if it will ever do). You should post it when and if the law is actually passed. $\endgroup$ – Federico Feb 21 '17 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ I do understand that criticism. One side of the problem is, "current" answers may very well be obsolete in a few months. After all there's no lobby concerned. Political parties have no reason to care about the finer details. It's just not controversial enough to raise a big discussion. The other side of the problem is, my "answer" isn't really an answer. It is basically an IANAL disclaimer. It doesn't help unless it raises awareness about the limits of QA sites. Plus, I can't promise to notice the end of legislation process, come back and find a 3 year old QA. Of course, I can't expect upvotes $\endgroup$ – NoAnswer Feb 21 '17 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ You're just listing reasons for which you should not have posted, as I see it. current answers may become be obsolete -> let's worry about that when and if that happens. my answer isn't really an answer glad you see that. I can't promise to notice the end of legislation process, come back and find a 3 year old QA well, nobody asked you to do that until you posted this. $\endgroup$ – Federico Feb 21 '17 at 12:31
  • $\begingroup$ You're right. Here's the sole reason, I posted: I thought it is important to know that 3 year old answers are not reliable information. To add to that I wrote a rough guideline when a reader needs to search for more info on his/her own. After all if I'd google, find this QA and read everything but my answer then I'd think that's all I need to know. Which is simply not true. Feel free to delete the answer and these comments, if you disagree. $\endgroup$ – NoAnswer Feb 21 '17 at 12:37
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Try this link: http://www.rc-network.de/magazin/artikel_02/art_02-0001/art_02-0001-00.html#3. If you want an even broader view, go to this link here: http://www.rc-network.de/magazin/artikel_02/art_02-0001/art_02-0001-00.html. Hope this helps!

This is a quote from the first link:

Basically, it can be stated that the model airplane at the latest at FL 100 (FL = flight level, flight level), which is about 3 km above sea level, comes to an end.

The page is in German, and of course, Chrome didn't provide a perfect translation. So model airplanes aren't allowed to fly higher than 3 km. Higher airspace is reserved for commercial flights, military, etc.

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  • $\begingroup$ Please show the pertinant information in your answer and not just links. Links break, but if you quote the actual information, it will be a better answer. $\endgroup$ – CGCampbell Aug 26 '14 at 1:46
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    $\begingroup$ The answer should also be incorrect, as model planes cannot enter class E to my knowledge. I'll hunt down the relevant articles from the LuftVO later tonight and post an answer. You also cannot operate RC planes or drones outside your own visibility range. $\endgroup$ – SentryRaven Aug 26 '14 at 6:06

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