Since 5th December 2014 a new rule has come into force (SERA-Verordnung) governing HAB flights following the unification of European air law.
Before that date, a HAB flight (Ballon mass < 4 kg) had to be announced to the air traffic control authorities (DFS) indicating launch location, time, balloon details (weight etc.), availability of insurance. Normally, they granted a permission and NOTAM without charging any fee within less then 2 weeks.
The process of getting a permission has changed. The new process is split into 2 phases. The first is called the “Landesluftfahrtbehörde”.
This means you have to provide
– a form sheet describing the details of the launch (e.g. location, including access routes for ambulances, expected number of visitors, etc.)
– a written agreement of the land owner allowing the launch;
– a written agreement of the town
– description of the balloon
and some more.
These documents have to be submitted to the aviation authorities (“Luftamt”) which will evaluate the request (minimum 2 weeks needed) and which will eventually provide a permission charging 40 EUR.
Once permission is obtained in this stage then you have to contact the air traffic control station (DFS) to get further approval from them.
This is the theory. Many German HAB enthusiasts have commented that the Landesluftfahrtbehörden have no idea how to handle the requests as it is a completely new responsibility to them.
There also seems to be regional variation in how the rules are applied. Some teams from North Rhine-Westphalia describe the old rules still being valid. Other teams from different regions say that the rules are enforced. Information on how the local rules are applied may be found from http://www.lba.de/DE/Presse_POE/Landesluftfahrtbeh%C3%B6rden/A_Z_Landesluftfahrtbehoerden.html
There are plans to re-establish the old rules providing a general permit to launch weather balloons (m < 4kg) only needing the permission from DFS; however, given the usual delays of big government authorities, this may take some time. We will post any more news when we get it. There are also lively discussions on this topic at the UKHAS messaging board and GSBC web forum.