This article is the English version of my Dutch page on Drone Rules in Portugal. I translated this to English as I noticed there are a lot of articles out there with incorrect information. All information on this page is based on research in mid 2023 according to official sources of government entities.
For proud owners of drones, Portugal is a fantastic destination to shoot pictures from high above the ground. The beautiful coastline in the south, the hilly interior and the old architecture in the cities almost beg to be captured. It is therefore no surprise that many adventurers who travel to Portugal for vacation are considering taking their drone with them. The use of drones has become increasingly popular in recent years due to the simplicity with which they can be controlled and, not unimportantly, the falling price tag.
However, before you put your drone in the suitcase for your trip to Portugal, it is important to be aware of the rules and legislation regarding the use of drones in the country. The first and most important question is therefore: are you allowed to fly a drone in Portugal? I answer these and many other questions in this article!
Can you fly a drone in Portugal?
To get straight to the point: yes, you can fly with a drone in Portugal, but there are a (considerable) number of steps you have to take and rules you have to adhere to. The Portuguese authorities have established many rules and guidelines to ensure the safety of both people on the ground and airspace users when using drones.
The list of rules regarding flying a drone in Portugal consists of two parts:
- The rules laid down by the European Union, supplemented by;
- The rules that Portugal has as a country.
Part 1: Drone rules from the European Union
In the infographic below you will find the different categories of drones and the requirements regarding registration and qualification. Your drone probably falls under the first category that you see at the top left. Examples of popular drones that fall into this category are the DJI Mini 1, 2 and 3 and the Pro versions thereof.
According to the EASA, the European aviation authority, you can use a drone without a camera under 250 grams without a license or registration. Does the drone have a camera (which is the reason for buying a drone in 99% of cases…) then you will have to register yourself as a drone operator in one of the countries that is affiliated with the EASA.
For drones above 250 grams, you will also need a flight license in addition to a registration. If you plan to fly your drone in Portugal, it is best to obtain your flight license before your holiday in your home country. More information about which flight license you need can be found on the website of the national government.
Part 2: Additional drone rules in Portugal
It took some digging, because the websites of the Portuguese aviation authorities are not exactly the most clear, but according to the ANAC (Autoridade Nacional de Aviação Civil) these are the rules for flying a drone in Portugal:
- You must register yourself and the drone(s) in advance. You must do this process in advance in your country of residence. Signing up is free and upon completing the registration you will receive a unique ID number (Operator Register Number) that must be visible somewhere on the drone. It is best to do this with a label printer, or simply with a marker on a strip of painter’s tape.
- It is mandatory to request permission in advance to take photos and videos from the ANAC. According to the FAQ on anac.pt, you must get approval before capturing footage. This applies to commercial but also recreational use (such as posting on social media). This requirement is reaffirmed on the website of the Autoridade Aeronáutica Nacional (AAN). Further down the page you can read how you can request permission from the AAN.
- Drones in the open category (A1, A2, A3 as shown above in the infograph) are allowed to fly up to 120 meters above ground or sea level.
- Direct visual contact with the drone is required and the operating distance should not exceed 500 meters.
- It is not allowed to fly over large groups of people. The website does not specify an exact number of people, but describes it as: people who cannot spread out, such as at concerts, stadiums or sporting events..
- It is prohibited at all times to fly a drone in and around airports and helicopter landing sites.
- Contrary to what I read on other websites, it is allowed to fly at night provided the drone has green flashing lights.
- You are not allowed to fly near military installations and public utilities, unless you have received explicit permission from the relevant authority.
View a nice flowchart here with the requirements for flying a drone in Portugal.
How to request permission to take photos and videos in Portugal?
According to the FAQ on ANAC.pt, prior approval is required for taking photos and videos with a drone. This can be done via a so-called e-AAN request via https://imagensaereas.aan.pt. Click on ‘don’t have an account? Sign up’ to create an account.
The ‘problem’ when registering on this platform is that it seems mandatory to enter a NIF number. This is a Portuguese tax number that every resident has, which you probably don’t have as a visitor to the country. I myself live in Portugal and I have a NIF, so I didn’t get stuck here. I recommend completing the form as accurately as possible and using your passport number for BI/CC/NIPC and NIF.
You will then receive additional instructions in your inbox to activate your account.
Once logged in, you can check your address details via the left menu, add your drone(s) via ‘RPAs’ and register yourself as a pilot via ‘Pilots’.
Your profile will be assessed within a few days and if it is approved, you can request permission via the ‘Areas’ menu to capture images via your drone in a certain area.
Request: Did you manage to create an account without NIF? Let me know in the comments so I can update the article. Thank you!
Where are you allowed and not allowed to fly a drone in Portugal?
Assuming you are registered and have reached the step of obtaining approval to create footage, there are a number of areas in Portugal where extra rules apply or flying is not allowed. In addition to the aforementioned airports and military areas, there are also a number of nature reserves where flying a drone is prohibited without explicit approval. This is to protect the birds and other fauna in that area against nuisance.
This interactive map shows all areas where flying with a drone without requesting permission is not allowed. Red and orange areas indicate that flying with a drone is never allowed here. Yellow areas indicate that there is a maximum flight height for drones of 75 meters. In addition, additional permission must be requested. The authority or contact person for this is listed in the popup.
In all other areas without color, permission is only required via the aforementioned https://imagensaereas.aan.pt.
What else should you take into account when flying a drone in Portugal?
In addition to the long list of rules above, I also have some practical tips and suggestions for flying your drone in beautiful Portugal from my own experience:
- Take a good look at the weather forecast in advance, especially the predicted wind force. Especially along the coast, the weather can quickly change from calm to wind gusts of 30-40 km/h. My tip for flying a drone in the Algarve is to go out with the drone especially in the morning, because the wind is often stronger during the day and in the evening.
- Find a high vantage point to fly from. This way you can keep an eye on your drone at all times and prevent your field of view from being blocked by the drone.
- Watch out for curious seagulls and other birds that show interest in the drone. I’ve had the drone come back a number of times because a seagull was flying circles around it.
Summary & disclaimer
In short, if you plan to come to Portugal with a drone, you will first have to register yourself and the drone with the RDW in the Netherlands. If you then stay below 120 meters in height, avoiding natural parks, groups of people and airports, you can safely capture beautiful Portugal with your drone after receiving approval via an e-AAN application.
All information on this page is based on my own research and interpretation of the rules to the best of my ability. If you think you have spotted an error, let us know via email or in a comment. The purpose of this article is to translate the rules as clearly as possible, but I may have misinterpreted something or made changes to the rules. The rules regarding the use of drones are constantly changing and I read that the rules will be adjusted again in early 2024.
You can find some of my own photos and videos that I made with my DJI Minis on the Instagram page of De Algarve Specialist!
Have fun flying!