What good is amazingly new and awesome technology like drones if you don’t have anywhere to use it? That’s exactly why we took to Germany’s famed Black Forest region to drive, explore and most importantly fly!
Privacy And Laws
One thing that is highly prevalent in Germany are their laws on privacy. Like many countries they value it, but Germany seems to go a few steps beyond most others like Australia or the US so our first stop was the official German aviation site, the German Federal Aviation Office (FAO) and UAV Coach.
Here we can see the usual types of laws such as not flying above 100 metres, maintaining VLOS, not flying at night, having insurance etc. The main laws that limited where we could fly though were
Drones may not be flown over crowds, industrial areas, disaster areas, prisons, residential areas, certain traffic routes, and several other areas designated as sensitive.
Drones that are able to record/transfer optical, acoustic, or radio signals are forbidden over residential areas unless the owners have agreed to the flight.
Luckily they provide a super handy map telling you where you can and cannot fly here. Obviously not being able to fly over many areas (basically anywhere that has any people near it) limited things quite a bit. That being said you can get some fantastic results by taking far away pictures of residential or commercial properties whilst not being over any of them. This both maintains peoples privacy and gets great results!
Endless Rolling Hills
Nestled in the south, western region of lovely Germany the Black Forest isn’t so much a location as it is an area of many towns, roads and endless forests and rolling hills. They really should rename it to the Green Forest as it’s just gorgeous whenever it’s sunny. I guess at night they go black!
The above photo was literally taken on the side of a road. It’s not a special lookout point or tourist attraction… it’s just what it looks like everywhere. Everywhere we looked (and drove) people were endlessly mowing lawns with tractors and making everything picture perfect.
All that open area also makes for fantastic drone flying possibilities too as there’s no chance of injuring people if accidents occur, invading anyone’s privacy or any other nasty things.
Sometimes you didn’t even need a drone – or even a DSLR – to take stunning photos. This one below was taken on a Google Pixel XL!
Given there where so many hills and so many forests all with small towns dotted throughout we made sure to hire a car. Travelling between points via train in what is essentially the country region isn’t really possible or practical.
So in the town of Füssen we hired our Nissan Juke and header off. As a side note this is also a fantastic base to go and visit the amazing Neuschwanstein Castle, the one that inspired the Disney Castle.
The Roads That Frustrate
After driving around to multiple different towns, through the hills and getting groceries etc one thing became quite apparent. German roads are exceptionally well maintained but some of their laws really don’t seem safe or practical.
To begin with they have many different speed limits (as do most countries) but they seem to switch between them at an alarming rate. Within just a kilometre of otherwise normal highway driving you’ll be changing from 120 km/h to 100 to 80, back to 100, back down to 80, back up to 120 and then back to 80 again.
It wasn’t so much the speeds themselves that was unsafe, but instead the constant changing up and down as well as catering for all the other traffic trying to do the same too. On top of this trucks are limited to 100 km/h no matter what the highway speed is. As such you have one lane with cars and trucks going 80-100 km/h and then the other lane(s) going up to 130+ km/h!
Again, nothing wrong with going 130 km/h (or more) but when you have cars darting in and out of trucks that are doing 80 km/h it’s a big speed difference that resulted in numerous cars having to slam on their breaks so as to not slam into the back of them.
The other rule that seemed painful and unnecessary was their 30 km/h restrictions anytime there were road works or any type of village. Now I’m not saying hooning past construction workers or pedestrians at 130 km/h is OK but 30 km/h is serious sloooowwww! We had bikes over taking us! Easily!
Couple this with the fact that these 30 zones often extended for kilometres (one went for 4 km’s!) and it makes for a painful experience. We have 40 zones here in Australia but they are only for a short area around schools. 30 km/h feels like I could have walked faster!
Check First, Fly Second
Even with all the pain of their road rules driving throughout the Black Forest was amazing. The views and towns were all beautiful with delicious pastries and cakes.
Some of the towns of course had their own unique themes like Cuckoo Clocks…
While other ones where more traditional with paved roads and cute cafes.
Wanting to fly the drone as much as possible though it was a constant back and forth between wanting to go to a certain place and having to check their map to ensure it was allowed.
The last thing I wanted was a huge fine or to bother the locals. Sometimes this leaded to driving into strange, out of the way areas so as not to be in a no fly zone. Fortunately the results were worth the effort.
It also helped that it was bright, sunny and warm virtually everywhere we went. We knew it was going to be their Autumn while we were over there but as it turned out there was a big heat wave spreading across a lot of Europe. These even resulted in the nights being 20+ degrees (Celsius) sometimes!
It wasn’t until hearing that this was because of a “heat wave” that it twigged to us. Being from Australia, sleeping in 20 degree weather isn’t anything odd, it happens most summers! So we thought nothing of it while over there but for Germany it’s most certainly not normal!
Worth The Effort
After the Black Forest we then continued onto Stuttgart which I’ll be writing more about later too. Here we returned the hire car and went back to using trains to get around as it’s much easier to do while you’re in bigger main cities.
So while you certainly can’t fly everywhere in Germany or even the Black Forest, with a little bit of research and planning before hand you can certainly have a huge amount of fun and get both stunning drone and ground shots that are sure to impress.
Just make sure to know where you’re staying, where you plan on flying and most importantly check on their official map that you’re allowed to fly there!
While getting an amazing video of one of their castles or great highways might sound like a good idea, chances are you won’t be allowed to even take off let alone take photos.
Many of the locations do allow you to get or purchase permits though so if you really must get that shot do your research and see what it takes to get official permission. Also don’t forget your insurance and to put a fireproof badge containing the name and address of the drone owner on any drone weighing over 250 grams.
Oh, and be sure to pack a picnic too!
The benefits include: 1) How to get those silky smooth videos that everyone loves to watch, even if you're new 2) How to fly your drone, from taking off to the most advanced flight modes 3) Clear outlines of how to fly with step-by-step instructional demonstrations and more 4) Why flying indoors often results in new pilots crashing their drone 5) What other great 3rd party apps are out there to get the most out of your drone 6) A huge mistake many pilots make when storing their drone in the car and how to avoid it 7) How to do all of these things whilst flying safely and within your countries laws.