A Guide to Drone Laws and Regulation in South East Asia


Traveling in South East Asia can be somewhat challenging to any owner of a drone because each country owns the rights to develop laws/ rules that are suitable to their own requirements. These laws and regulations are constantly on the move and are subject to change, so it can be hard to track them and keep up to date with where you can fly.

We have all been there I’m sure… You are all ready to travel, cameras and suitcases packed… ready to take on the great adventure. You’re excited about the thought of capturing some of the most beautiful places in the world, so why would you check legislation…?

However, checking the laws prior to travel is a must and best practice within the aviation industry. Whether you fly for fun or commercially, there are laws in place for everyone to ensure safety in the air and promote safe flying for everyone. There are also some rather harsh penalties in some countries if you are in breach of the laws, so it’s best to avoid them.

Some of you (or hopefully all of you) have heard about the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), who are the world’s leading organization with a mission to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world. With this in mind, the FAA have set the standards globally for the industry to adhere to.

The Administration has four strategic priorities:

  1. Make aviation safer and smarter

  2. Deliver benefits through technology and infrastructure

  3. Enhance global leadership

  4. Empower and innovate with the FAA’s people

Airlines

As well as country legislation and laws, each airline flying in and out of the region has their own rules in place. Airlines such as Malaysian Airline have strict rules around traveling with lithium batteries, so it is always worth checking on their websites prior to booking your flights, to avoid any embarrassment or upset at security.

One requirement that is consistent on all airlines is the need for you to carry any lithium batteries in your hand luggage, rather than in checked-in bags. Failure to properly pack lithium-ion batteries can result in the airline seizing them, fines, or denied boarding.

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Having done the research there was a lot of information to take in, therefore I have broken it down by country and included relevant information/ links under each section so that you have everything you need.

Traveling

Brunei

According to Brunei’s national aviation authority, the Brunei ​Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), drones are banned in Brunei and if you try to enter the country with a drone it will be confiscated at customs. The authority has also reminded the public that launching of any unmanned aircraft, commonly known as drone, is a prohibited activity under Section 21 of the Civil Aviation Order 2006.

The DCA said it is an offense to use UA, UAV and UAS as they can pose several safety and security risks to air navigation, controlled airspace and densely-populated areas.

Any such unregulated flying activities may have catastrophic consequences to aircraft operations resulting in injuries to persons and damage to properties, stated the DCA in its press release.

Having said that, if you intend to use your drone for commercial purposes, you will need to obtain prior permission. For those who have obtained permission, there are several drone laws that need to be followed when flying in the country. You must ensure that you adhere to the following:

  • Do not fly your drone over people or large crowds

  • Respect others privacy when flying your drone

  • Do not fly your drone over airports or in areas where aircraft are operating

  • You must fly during daylight hours and only fly in good weather conditions

  • Do not fly your drone in sensitive areas including government or military facilities. Use of drones or camera drones in these areas are prohibited

If you violate Brunei laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.

Although exemptions on the use of UAs are granted by the DCA on a case-by-case basis with the terms, limitation and conditions set out in the authorization of the DCA, drone owners or any others who contravene or fail to comply with any provision of the Order is guilty of an offense and will be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $50,000 and imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or both.

Authority: Brunei ​Department of Civil Aviation (DCA)

Website: http://www.mtic.gov.bn/dca/Theme/Home.aspx

Cambodia

In contrast, the good news is that not all countries in SE Asia are as strict as Brunei and in Cambodia a drone permit is not required, whether you are flying for recreational or commercial purposes. There are however restrictions as to where and how you can fly your drone. If you fly responsibly, the Cambodia State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) has given travelers a pretty loose reign, which is wonderful for anyone wishing to capture its beauty.

This is with exemption of the drone bans in Phnom Penh, Angkor Park, and around any historic temples.

Permission to fly in Phnom Penh can be acquired by obtaining a permit from the Cinema and Cultural Diffusion Department and the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts of Cambodia. To fly in Angkor Park, you will need a permit from the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap and clearance from the air traffic control because of the proximity of the temple to the airport.

It is essential however that you follow the FAA’s rules for flying:

  • Do not fly your drone over people or large crowds

  • Respect others privacy when flying your drone

  • Do not fly your drone over airports or in areas where aircraft are operating

  • You must fly during daylight hours and only fly in good weather conditions

  • Do not fly your drone in sensitive areas including government or military facilities. Use of drones or camera drones in these areas are prohibited

  • Drones are banned in Phnom Penh, Angkor Park, or around any historic temples unless you have written permission

Back in 2015 the government banned drones from the airspace of the nation’s capital city without prior approval, citing privacy and security concerns. This ban is still in place today.

Authority: Cambodia State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA)

Website: http://www.civilaviation.gov.kh/en/

Indonesia

Drone use is allowed in Indonesia, but there are several drone laws that need to be followed when flying in the country. You must ensure that the below are always followed:

  • Do not fly your drone over people or large crowds

  • Respect others privacy when flying your drone. You must get consent from people in your photos should you wish to use them for commercial purposes

  • Do not fly your drone over airports or in areas where aircraft are operating

  • You must fly during daylight hours and only fly in good weather conditions

  • Do not fly your drone in sensitive areas including government or military facilities. Use of drones or camera drones in these areas are prohibited

  • Do not fly higher than 150 meters (490 feet) without first obtaining a permit

  • Do not fly over temples

For drones that fall into recreational flying, and weigh less than 2 kgs, no prior permission is required. However, if your drone falls weighs more than 2 kgs, you will require a permit from the General Director of the Department of Civil Aviation. If you are flying your drone commercially, and your drone weighs less than 2 kgs, no prior permission is required, however, you require to be a licensed drone pilot and have your drone insured.

If your drone weighs more than 2 kgs, a permit is required from the General Director of the Department of Civil Aviation along with the license and insurance papers.

The fines and punishment for flying a drone in breach of the laws are massive (up to 3 years incarceration and RP 1 billion fines), therefore it is best to familiarize yourself with the laws before flying.

Authority: Directorate General of Civil Aviation

Website: http://hubud.dephub.go.id/?en

Laos

Laos is fairly strict and requires that any drones that weigh 200 grams (0.44 pounds) or more permission must be obtained from the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications before flying.

Once permission is granted, you must:

  • Only fly during the day and in good weather conditions.

  • Do not fly over people or crowded areas.

  • Do not fly near airports or aircrafts that are in operation.

  • Respect the privacy of others when flying your drone.

After you have registered, you are then required to inform the department of the places where you intend to fly, before you can operate it.

The decision is the first of its kind promulgated to regulate drone use in Laos and was put in place after many members of the public were flying their drones in the skies of Vientiane and provinces freely without being regulated, which raised safety concerns.

The new decision categorizes drones, also known as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), into three types:

  1. Drones weighing not heavier than 200 grams (can be flown for fun without permission)

  2. Drones weighing more than 200 grams but not heavier than 2 kilograms

  3. Drones more than 2 kilograms.

The radio telecommunications frequency used for drones heavier than 200 grams must be between 2,400-2,500 MHz or 5,725 – 5,875 MHz. Equivalent isotropic radiated power (EIRP) should be 100. This radio frequency certificate must then be submitted together with an insurance certificate and proof of tax payment to the department, which will then issue a registration document.

Drones failing to meet the above MHz and EIRP standards are prohibited from flying in Lao skies.

The penalty faced by anyone who is found importing, producing, selling or flying drones heavier than 200 grams without permission from the relevant authorities will face a fine of one million kip (£90/ $120) per drone.

Authority: Department of Civil Aviation of Laos (DCAL)

Website: http://www.mpt.gov.la

Malaysia

Although flying a drone in Malaysia is legal, there are some important rules to know for flying a drone:

  • Drones may not be flown in Class A, B, C or G airspace; within an aerodrome traffic zone; or more than 400 feet above the ground.

  • Drone pilots must maintain a direct visual line of sight with their drones during operations.

  • Permission from the Director General must be obtained for commercial drone operations.

  • Drones weighing more than 20 kilograms (44 pounds) may not be flown without permission from the Director General.

The CAAM has categorized drones into three main categories:

  1. Small Unmanned Aircraft System: Drones with a maximum weight of 20kg.

  2. Small Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft: Drones that weigh a maximum of 20kg and are equipped with data acquisition devices (such as cameras and microphones) – this would be a typical DJI drone such as the Mavic Pro or Phantom

  3. Unmanned Aircraft System of more than 20kg: All other drones weighing more than 20 kg

CAAM has stated that the general drone laws for Malaysia are:

  • The maximum permitted height of ascent is at 120 meters (400 feet).

  • Drone flights are only allowed within visibility. FPV flights can be carried out under certain conditions by experienced pilots.

  • It is recommended that you take out of an aviation liability insurance.

  • An authorization is required from a weight of 20 kilograms.

  • You have to keep 4.5 kilometers (3 miles) distance to airports and heliports.

  • A distance of 50 meters shall be maintained to other persons, vehicles, boats, and buildings.

  • Drone flights are not allowed near crowds (more than 1,000 people).

  • To obtain a flight permit, you must submit some documents. Amongst other things, you need training evidence and the declaration of consent of the landowners.

  • Generally, flights are only permitted in daylight.

  • Commercial flights must be approved by the Department of Civil Aviation. The permit costs 800 RM for the first year. The extension of the license costs 500 RM per year.

The Department of Civil Aviation in Malaysia is about to crack down on the illegal drone flying in the country and will set up its own enforcement unit to put a stop to it.

According to industry sources, about one million drones have been sold in the Asian country over the last four years, but what many drone owners do not realize is that is illegal to fly an unmanned aerial vehicle or drone for recreational or commercial purposes outside the compounds of their home. According to Civil Aviation Regulations 2016, all drone activity, no matter the size and purpose, requires a flying permit from DCA.

The penalties for flying drones illegally in Malaysia can be quite severe. Individuals can face fines up to RM50,000 (USD $12,166) or a jail sentence of up to three years. Companies that fly drones illegally can face fines up to RM100,000 (USD $24,332) and a maximum six months prison time for its officers.

Authority: Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM)

Website: http://www.dca.gov.my/

Myanmar

Myanmar is a grey area when it comes to flying drones because the laws are constantly changing. However, as it stands drone use is allowed in Myanmar, BUT there are several country specific drone laws that need to be followed when flying in the country. Operators must ensure that they follow the following laws when flying in Myanmar:

  • You must first contact the aviation authority and get a permit before flying a drone in Myanmar

  • You cannot fly your drone near airports or in areas were aircraft are operating

  • You cannot fly your drone near military installations or restricted areas, doing so can result in fines and/or jail time

  • You must fly during daylight hours and only fly in good weather conditions

  • Do not fly your drone over people or large crowds

  • Respect others privacy when flying your drone

In 2017, two foreign journalists and two Myanmar nationals were sentenced to two months in jail at a Naypyitaw court under an unexpected charge after attempting to fly a drone near Myanmar’s Parliament. This caused the authorities to tighten up the drone laws and anyone who is caught breaking them will face large fines and possible imprisonment.

Authority: Myanmar’s Department of Civil Aviation

Website: https://www.dca.gov.mm/

Philippines

Drone use is allowed in the Philippines, but there are several drone laws that need to be adhered to when flying in the region:

  • To fly a drone for commercial purposes, or to fly a drone that weighs 7 kilograms (15 pounds) or more, you must obtain a certificate from the CAAP

  • You cannot fly within 30 meters of a person who is not associated with operation of the drone

  • You cannot fly higher than 400 feet (122 meters)

  • You must fly during daylight hours and only fly in good weather conditions

  • You must not fly within 10km of an airport or in areas where aircraft are operating

  • You may not fly your drone over populated areas

  • Respect others privacy when flying your drone

Large drones weighing 7 kilograms (15 pounds) or more and drones for commercial use require a UAV certificate from the CAAP. The authorization has three parts:

  1. UAV Controller / Pilot Certificate

  2. UAV Registration

  3. UAV Operator Certificate

To be eligible for the UAV Controller/ Pilot Certificate, you must complete a training course, pass an exam, and pass a flight demonstration. This certificate will be valid for five years.

The UAV Operator Certificate requires a letter of intent and detailed operations specifications and will be valid for three years.

For more information, the CAAP published a document that provides all information about the legislation (http://uavphilippines.com/dl/20151208%20-%20CAAP%20MC%2029-15.pdf)

Authority: Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP)

Website: http://www.caap.gov.ph/

Singapore

Singapore’s national aviation authority, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), states that flying a drone is legal in Singapore, but they ask that drone owners are aware of and compliant with the following drone regulations:

  • A permit is not required to fly a drone that weighs 7 kilograms (15 pounds) or less that is being flown 200 feet or below. If flying a drone heavier than 7 kilograms (15 pounds) or above 60 meters (200 feet), a permit is required.

  • Drones cannot be flown over people or crowds.

  • Drones may not interfere with emergency service providers, or over vehicles where their presence may distract the driver.

  • Drones may not be flown within 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of an airport.

  • Drones may only be flown during daylight hours.

  • Drone pilots must always maintain a visual line of sight with their drone.

A permit is required however if you wish to do the following:

  • Fly above 200 feet

  • Fly in restricted airspace

  • Fly for business purposes (i.e. commercial flights)

Authority: Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS)

Website: https://www.caas.gov.sg/

Thailand

Starting with Thailand, currently one of the most popular travel destinations in the region and a grey area for a number of people. Over the past few years the Thai authorities have tightened their laws on flying UAVs due to the increase of UAVs entering the country and the number of incidents around restricted zones such as airports, which have increased dramatically.

Therefore, the law now states that with no exceptions, any UAV that has a camera installed and/or weighing over 2kg must be registered. They have also made it essential that any UAVs weighing over 25kg, must receive permission from the minister of transport before flying can commence.

If and when you are lucky enough to be allowed to fly, you must adhere to the following rules:

  • Flying no higher than 90m.

  • Not flying closer than 9km/ 5miles from airport or temporary airfield.

  • Not flying in restricted areas.

  • Not flying closer than 30m to any person, vehicle, building or construction.

Any act of violation is subjected to up to one year imprisonment or fined up to 40,000THB (USD $1,200) or both.

So if you are traveling through Thailand and wish to fly your drone, make sure you follow the above, because failure to do so could land you in big trouble.

Authority: Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT)

Website: https://www.caat.or.th/en/archives/category/aviation-en/drone-en

Vietnam

Vietnam has some rather unique laws when it comes to flying UAV. The Ministry of Defense is responsible for the regulation of drone manuveurs. Under the current legal situation, you need authorization from the Ministry of Defense and although you can put in the form yourself it's in Vietnamese and it can take up to 3 weeks to be approved so this requires some solid planning.

What most foreigners do is they get a company to do the process for them. It takes the hassle out of the process and delays are much shorter (some companies can do it in 4-5 days).

But of course, this process will cost you: between $ 350 and $ 700 depending on who is doing your permit. And that's only for one day of flying. So depending on the number of flights you are planning, this can quickly put you in some major debt.

  • A unique flight license is required for every drone flight conducted in Vietnam. Applications must be submitted at least 14 days before the planned date of the flight to the Operations Bureau of the General Command Post of the Ministry of Defense.

  • Drones may not be used to carry radioactive substances, flammable, or explosive materials.

  • Drones may not be used to launch, shoot or jettison harmful objects or substances or those containing hazards.

  • Drones may not be mounted with aerial equipment and/ or used for aerial videography or photographing activities without a license issued for that purpose.

  • Drones may not fly flags or banners, release leaflets or otherwise be used for propaganda purposes.

There have been reports of drones being confiscated at Vietnam airport and then given back to passengers on departure, so be prepared… if you try your luck, you may lose your drone.

Also, if you decide to fly without a permit, make sure you stay away from populated places because as you will see, Vietnamese people are usually very curious about "flycams" as they call it here and they will attract attention your way, just because they want to see it.

Authority: Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV)

Website: https://www.caa.gov.vn/

Law & Regulation Apps

If you ever feel in doubt, do not worry, because in addition to the authority websites there are several apps that have been designed to keep you up to date with the laws and regulated by the authorities, to provide you with everything you need to know when flying your drone.

However, please do take caution as not all of them are as accurate or reliable as others. The most reliable and most commonly used app is CASA’s called ‘Can I fly there?’, which has been designed to give you the most reliable source of information including no fly zones, restricted areas, natural disasters (including fires etc.), so if you are ever in doubt, always check the app.

So as you can see from the above, every country across the region differs and therefore it is best practice to check up on the legislation before you travel to avoid any unwanted penalties. As I am sure you will appreciate, the rules have been put in place to help keep the aviation industry safe and make flying enjoyable for everyone.

Remember it only takes a careless flight, putting someone’s life at risk or be in breach of the laws for authorities to completely ban the use of UAVs. In an industry that is already proving to be a challenge, if we follow the rules and promote safe flying, we can continue to share our passion and enjoy the world from the unique and beautiful perspective that we have all grown to love.

Disclaimer: To the best of our knowledge these are the laws and regulations implemented per each country at the time of publication. Women Who Drone is not responsible for changes to the law and regulation in any given country and insists every pilot do their own further research to ensure their flight legality and safety.

Originally from London, UK now living in Sydney, Australia, Charlene found her passion for UAVs back in 2018 whilst she was travelling through South East Asia. Having been lucky enough to visit some of the most beautiful places in the world, she has continued to share her love for travel and aerial photography to people all over the world, and successfully organised a drone meetup ‘Sydney Drone Meet Up’ at the end of 2018, which was sponsored by PolarPro and D1Store (the Australian DJI approved supplier). Finding her love of UAVs has opened the door to many opportunities and connected her to many people in the industry, and as a brand ambassador for Women who Drone she hopes that she can use her knowledge and passion to inspire other women to find their passion of UAVs too.

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www.charlenetravels.com


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