As drones become cheaper, higher quality and more easily available, it feels like every other backpacker has one. But before taking to the skies in Southeast Asia, you need to understand the drone laws.
Penalties for failing to abide by the rules in certain countries are very strict and there can be a lot of hoops you need to jump through to avoid breaking the law.
This series of articles outlines our understanding of drone laws in Southeast Asia. We always recommend checking with official sources to ensure you’re operating your drone legally.
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Drones in Southeast Asia
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Can I Fly a Drone in Southeast Asia?
Yes, you can fly a drone in Southeast Asia. However, different countries in the region have different rules. In some countries, you need to register your drone and get a permit to fly it. In others, you’re allowed to fly the drone anywhere – as long as it’s not designated a no-fly zone by the government.
List of countries for specific drone laws:
What Is a No-Fly Zone for Drones?
A no-fly zone is an area of restricted airspace where you cannot fly anything without express permission from the government or a representative body. No-fly zones are often found near airports, major cities, important government buildings and military installations.
No-fly zones can also be in place over sports stadiums, national parks, national monuments or large gatherings of people, like at a music festival or outdoor event.
It’s also worth being aware that some countries have instituted no-drone zones. These are much like no-fly zones but the rules only apply to unmanned aerial vehicles.
Finally, there are occasionally complicated laws about no-fly/no-drone zones and authorisation for using a drone in these areas. While you can sometimes get permission to fly in certain no-fly zones, you may need to seek additional landowner permission to take off/land your drone.
General Tips for Flying a Drone in Southeast Asia
Do Not Fly Over Groups of People
Flying your drone over crowds or gatherings of people can sometimes produce amazing footage and photos. However, it’s a risky practice. If your drone falls from the sky or you crash into people, you’re likely to cause damage or injury that you’re liable for.
Protect yourself, your drone and other people by not flying over them!
Respect the Privacy of Others When Flying a Drone
While there are rarely laws preventing you from taking photos of people in public spaces, it’s still good practice to respect people’s privacy and stay a good distance away from them.
This is even more true if you’re flying near private property where there are often laws to prevent you taking photos of people.
Be Aware of Localised Rules
Countries often have localised no-fly zones or permit-only areas. National Parks and popular monuments in Southeast Asia often fall into this category. Make sure you understand any local laws to avoid finding yourself in hot water!
Be Aware of Maximum Altitude Limits
The maximum ceiling for flying a drone varies from country to country. Some countries in Southeast Asia have a maximum elevation for drones set at 60 metres, in others, it’s 150 metres.
Be Aware of Daylight Hour Flying Rules
Most countries in Southeast Asia require that you only fly during daylight hours. Flying at night without the correct paperwork can result in severe penalties.
Be Aware of Weather Related Flying Rules
Most countries in Southeast Asia state that you can only fly in good weather conditions and away from clouds. If you’re caught breaking these rules, you can end up facing strict punishments.
Maintain Line of Sight With Your Drone
Maintaining line of sight with your drone is a super important practice no matter where you’re flying. The risk of something going wrong is magnified if you can’t see your drone. To ensure the safety of your drone, as well as the safety of everyone around, make sure you can see your drone!
Don’t Discharge Anything From Your Drone
If you discharge anything from your drone, you could be in serious trouble. Never discharge anything from a drone unless you have express permission to do so.
Do Not Interfere With Emergency Vehicles or Responders
This should go without saying but apparently, it needs to be written down… NEVER INTERFERE WITH EMERGENCY VEHICLES OR RESPONDERS!
Doing so puts you at risk of severe penalties and puts the responders as well as whoever they’re trying to rescue at physical risk too.
Drones In Southeast Asia – A Round-Up
Flying drones is legal in every Southeast Asian country. However, there are rules you need to follow. In some countries, you need to register your drone no matter what. In others, only drones over a certain size or for commercial use need to be registered.
There are also different flying rules and regulations depending on where you visit. So, to ensure you have a trouble-free flight, check the local rules and requirements for each Southeast Asian country before packing your drone!