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Do NOT take your drone to France (I got arrested)
483 12 2023-11-15
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volaredrone
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I know people are going to call me an idiot here... but I feel like this is likely a mistake many other people make and I figured this post could serve as a warning to others....

In September, my wife and I took a trip to France with my (practically brand new) Mavic 3 Pro. I was hired by a chateau there to film their property with my drone. Before leaving, I acquired a French drone license, registered my drone with the French drone authorities, took the required French drone course  – everything that I needed to do to be legal.

When in Paris, I opened the DJI app to see how far out of town I'd need to go to fly. The app showed central Paris was a no fly zone (as I suspected and had read online), but that outside the city center was a forrest that was only a warning zone, so we headed there and put the drone up. What I didn't realize is that the DJI app map is very innacurate in France – practically most of France (including Paris and all sububurbs) is a no fly zone.

DJI-ok-to-fly-zone.jpg

So, the police came while I was flying and took me to jail. When questioned by the police (who were super nice), they were amazed at all the steps I had taken to ensure I was flying legally. They said that in all the years they had arrested people for flying in illegal areas, not a single other person had ever taken the course and all the steps I had (+ labeling drone, showing license, FAA license, liability insurance, etc.). They said they'd be very surprised if the prosecutor confiscated my drone, but unfortunately that is exactly what happened (~$3,500 of equipment betwen M3P and RC pro). I spent the night in jail and had to appear in court the next day – missed a tour we had booked and lost a day of our vacation + the job I had at the chateau, but the worst part was the drone of course.
I was given a sort of deferred adjudication, where I didn't have to pay a fine or be formally convicted if I don't commit the same offense again in the next 6 years in France. If I do, I will spend like 6 months in jail and pay $75,000. The French prosecutor said that to fly practically anywhere in France you need to ask the local police for permission.


The French police called DJI and were told by a representative that the company is aware of the map inaccuracies and has no plans to change it.
I feel like DJI is doing a HUGE disservice to their customers and knowlingly misleading them.
There is no reason DJI should not have these areas blocked off as no-fly zones in the app and require custom authorization documents uploaded for flying in them (like near airports in the US). At the very least, DJI should give a warning in the app saying that it is not permitted without approval from French police and require a checkbox to acknolwedge it. In actuality, there was no warning at all.

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Here is the real France no-fly map for reference from the French government: https://www.geoportail.gouv.fr/donnees/restrictions-uas-categorie-ouverte-et-aeromodelisme



2023-11-15
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Depp
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I won't call you an idiot. DJI doesn't seem to put in all no fly zones and when I was in France I noticed in a different app that there were many more restrictions than in most other countries which was really annoying. I hope I didn't make any mistakes and wasn't approached by anyone. A real shame about your drone. Thank you for warning us.
2023-11-15
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Blériot53
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Youre right with the link to the French version of their NFZs.
And my word! how those red areas have proliferated over the last few years.

The starting point for anyone wanting to fly drones in France is here:

https://alphatango.aviation-civile.gouv.fr/login.jsp

I lived in France until 2021, obtained my French drone licence in 2017, and enjoyed the hobby.
In all that time I didn't have such an unfortunate experience as you did.
Commisserations.
2023-11-15
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DAFlys
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Im curious how you got through the A2 exam without knowing about the real NFZ official site.
2023-11-16
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volaredrone
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DAFlys Posted at 11-16 01:42
Im curious how you got through the A2 exam without knowing about the real NFZ official site.

I saw the link in the exam and incorrectly assumed that DJI's map would reflect it (as it has every time I've flown in the US)
2023-11-16
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DAFlys
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volaredrone Posted at 11-16 07:37
I saw the link in the exam and incorrectly assumed that DJI's map would reflect it (as it has every time I've flown in the US)

That doenst add up as the A2 exam goes into far more depth than the A1/A3 exam that you can take first at your leisure without being monitored.
2023-11-17
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volaredrone
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DAFlys Posted at 11-17 04:45
That doenst add up as the A2 exam goes into far more depth than the A1/A3 exam that you can take first at your leisure without being monitored.

I took the A1/A3 exam in my own time.

Half of the documents were in French and not translated.
2023-11-17
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DAFlys
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volaredrone Posted at 11-17 07:36
I took the A1/A3 exam in my own time.

Half of the documents were in French and not translated.

OK So you needed the A2 exam to fly the Mavic Pro there then as its not C0-C1
2023-11-18
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volaredrone
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DAFlys Posted at 11-18 00:54
OK So you needed the A2 exam to fly the Mavic Pro there then as its not C0-C1

A C2 drone can still fly in A3 category.

Regardless, the French police didn't take any issue with the course or license I had.
The bigger issue was I wouldn't be able to fly where I was no matter what license I had.
2023-11-19
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DAFlys
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volaredrone Posted at 11-19 14:34
A C2 drone can still fly in A3 category.

Regardless, the French police didn't take any issue with the course or license I had.

You were in a park,  thats not an A3 area.  
2023-11-20
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Montfrooij
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It's quite similar in NL (the map inaccuracy).
I always use the local map (whenever available)
2023-12-29
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Irene Lee
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So you think people shouldn’t take their drone to France because YOU failed to get all the information you needed?
Drones are legal in France. They can be flown in plenty of places. One  needs to know where and how. You admit you didn’t know. Relying on DJI app to determine flight restrictions? Seriously? I’m taking ny C1 drone to France and have already secured permission from private locations where I want to take photos and will notify local police. As is clearly stated in the local laws.
2-25 20:01
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Irene Lee
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volaredrone Posted at 2023-11-17 07:36
I took the A1/A3 exam in my own time.

Half of the documents were in French and not translated.

Ignorance of the law in any country is never an excuse. It sucks that you had a bad experience but labeling your post as “don’t take your drone to France” is silly. Should have been “don’t make the mistake I made”. Drones are legal in France.
2-25 20:05
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