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Rules for private use of drones endorsed by Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet

Chancellor Merkel's cabinet has endorsed a set of rules for the private use of drones, including mandatory licenses and identification for those of a certain weight. The federal assembly is to vote on the proposal.

The federal cabinet has endorsed a new set of rules for the ownership and use of drones. The aim is to avoid accidents and protect citizens' privacy.

In 2016, there were an estimated 400,000 drones in Germany. Germany's air traffic control authority, the DFS, has warned that drones could endanger airplane and helicopter traffic. It registered 64 sightings of drones dangerously close to air vehicles - five times as many as in the previous year. There are also concerns that a drone plummeting from the sky could hit and hurt or even kill a person on the ground.

The proposed measures include making licenses mandatory for the use of drones of a certain weight class. Operators would have to either pass a test on the use of drones or hold a pilot's license and be at least 16 years of age in order to fly drones which weigh more than two kilos (4.4 pounds.)

For heavier drones, of five kilos or more, or the use of drones at night, a permit from an official governmental agency would have to be obtained. Aviation clubs would be exempt from these rules.

In addition, the federal traffic ministry has proposed mandatory labeling and stricter rules on where drones can be flown in Germany. Drones of a quarter of a kilo or more would be required to bear the name and address of their owner to ensure accountability.

'Clear rules' necessary

There would also be a ban on flying drones above residential homes without the owner or resident's explicit consent. Their use would also be prohibited in nature preserves, jails, industrial plants, crowds of people and places where police or firefighters were at work. They would also be limited to flying at no more than 100 meters above the ground.

The private use of drones is already banned in and around airports.

Federal traffic minister Alexander Dobrindt said that "clear rules" were necessary, given that "the danger of collisions, crashes and accidents" was on the rise as Germans increasingly used the unmanned aerial vehicles.

The German federal assembly will now have to vote on whether the proposed rules will become law. 

mb/jm (AFP, dpa)

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