Bureaucracy Takes To The Skies: Drone Regulations in Croatia

Thinking of flying a drone while here?

Just a few days ago, I became aware of the ridiculous Croatian rules and laws about flying drones that have cameras attached to them. To hush all the voices which might get raised about this issue, I'm not against laws and regulations, and I'm definitely not some kind of anarchist, or in some freedom-for-drone-pilots movement or anything. Every civilised country has drone regulations. Drones are not toys anymore, they are aircraft and as such regulations have to be in place.

But, Croatia... how much of a pain in heart it is when I see such narrow-mindedness! Of course, Croatia has multiple laws and regulations when it comes to flying drones. As I was preparing for our regular once-a-year visit to the homeland, I was checking the law about drones as we're newbie drone pilots. I was expecting to see something similar to the Irish law, or German law or any other EU country regulation. Mostly, the Croatian laws are pretty much the same as them, such as the one about maximum flight altitude, restricted areas, and the fact that you can't fly over densely populated areas without special permissions.

All of that is logical and somewhat understandable. Here is the link in English to the page detailing all of the intricate rules which apply to flying drones in Croatia. Of course, there is no information in English or any other language other than Croatian from the officials, which you would think would be appropriate for such a highly visited country, with tourists flocking from all over and speaking all languages except Croatian.

Well, to continue my utter amazement with laws in Croatia, we have a law where you need to obtain prior approval from the Croatian Civil Aviation Authority (CCAA) and that’s okay. You can send that application with an e-mail, then wait for approval, all in all it's a process that takes about two weeks.

Then, there's the rule about asking for frequency permission from HAKOM, but as most drones operate on frequencies between 2400 – 2483.5 or 5470 – 5725 MHz which are covered in the general approval OD 16 and OD 87, then it's okay, you don’t need any special approval.

And finally, we're getting to the point where the catch is.

To quote Francis from the above linked blog page: ''If you want to take aerial photos with your drone in Croatia, then you also need a permit from the State Geodetic Administration (SGA, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). These applications are treated very differently, and so far it has not been possible to determine what the criteria for approval actually is from the competent authorities. However, it seems to be beneficial if you detail that your recordings are for family use only and won't be published.''

In the case of private flights, theoretically no permission is required from the SGA, but the authority decides in each case whether the permit is necessary. Information from the SGA that aerial photographs may not be created for private purposes has already been read about.

''The applications at the SGA are discussed with the Ministry of Defense. The processing time can, therefore, be significantly more than four weeks. So I recommend that you get all the permits for Croatia half a year in advance.''

If you missed it, ANY filming from air, land or sea, requires an application to the SGA. After you get the approval, you need to send back all the filming material, all the photos, for examination and additional approval before you can use them. They will give you a yes or a no when it comes to the question of whether or not you can post them on Facebook or YouTube, use them for your albums etc. Here's the link in Croatian.

Not only do you need to apply, but the application requires you to be there, physically, in the country, you need to buy and stick stamps on the application. The stamps can only be bought in Croatia. Which is impossible to put into practice for recreational purposes, such as for a holiday visit that usually lasts about 14 days.

What Francis the blogger provided online as impartial information, I will scream out loud: WHAT!?!

What is wrong with the Croatian Government and what are they thinking? In the area of social media, the selfie culture, technological advancement, Google Earth, Google Maps... I'll stop there, I think you get the picture. They are freaking out like some rudiment from a past social suspicious mentalty complex.

What about free recommendations and promotions from happy tourists, what about free advertisement from beautiful drone videos made by holidaymakers?

How many tourists have already decided not to come to Croatia, because they don’t want to go through the torture of its bureaucratic system? I was reading Irish forums and drone pilots want to be able to film their vacation with their drones. That's part of their relaxation, their summer fun. It's part of the new culture and whether you like it or not, it's here to stay.

Nobody wants to risk it by disobeying the law and having their vacation time ruined by paying high fines etc. They’ll just decide not to bother with Croatia at all.

If I wasn't Croatian, if I didn't have my family to visit, if I hadn't already booked my flights, etc, I'd reconsider spending my holidays in Croatia as there are so many other beautiful countries with amazingly beautiful blue-turquoise seas that are smarter when it comes to making new laws on flying drones and taking pictures.

I really hope that there will be a change in that rule and that they will reconsider the practicality of enforcing such a restrictive and hardly workable regulation.