Flying a drone in Thailand: What the law says for tourists
"Can I bring my drone to Thailand?"
Attracting almost 40 million tourists in 2019, the Southern Asian country of Thailand is admittedly one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. And why not? From stunning sandy white beaches and lush green forests to delicious street food and rich cultural history, Thailand offers travelers everything they could have imagined – and that too at a fraction of the price compared to Europe or the United States.
For drone lovers, Thailand’s natural beauty is definitely magnetic. You can get some amazing aerial shots, especially if you are traveling to quiet, less-crowded areas. But what does the law say about flying a drone in Thailand?
Drone registration is compulsory in Thailand
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) made drone registration a prerequisite for flying in 2017. Tourists can bring their drones into Thailand. However, in order to get around to actual flying, they first need to register their birds the NBTC and the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT).
The following infographic by TAT Newsroom provides a handy snapshot of Thai regulations for remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) or drones:
Image courtesy: TAT News
As you can see above, the Thai government has divided drones into two categories. Let’s help you understand the differentiation:
1. The first category is for the purpose of hobby, entertainment, or sport (recreation). The drone must:
a. Weigh no more than 2 kg
b. Weigh more than 2 kg but not exceed 25 kg
2. The second category is for purposes other than recreation with a drone weighing under 25 kg:
a. For use by media for reporting traffic or incidents
b. For photographing, filming, or shooting TV programs
c. For research and development of the aircraft
d. For other purposes
In this blog, we are going to focus only on the first category, i.e., recreational flying.
General rules and regulations for flying drones in Thailand
You must not fly in a way that could cause harm to the life, property, and peace of others
No flying in restricted areas such as near airports, government buildings, or hospitals
The drone must be flown in line of sight at all times, no more than 90 meters above the ground
No flying over crowds or in any way which violates people’s privacy
Fly only between sunrise and sunset, i.e., in daylight
Documents required for drone registration in Thailand
You will need the following documents to register your drone with the NBTC:
A signed copy of the passport with entry stamp
Registered address in Thailand (hotel booking would do)
Photos and serial numbers of the drone and the controller
A copy of the drone insurance policy, providing coverage of at least THB 1 million (approx. $32,000)
The key thing to remember is, right now, drone registration can be done only once you are inside the country. So, if you are going only on a short vacation, you may not be able to get the paperwork done in time.
Once you obtain NBTC approval, you can apply for CAAT registration. This can be done via an online platform and results are usually received within 15 days. Once the registration is successful, it is valid for two years. So, yay!
Risks of flying illegally in Thailand
Given how complex and time-consuming the drone registration process in Thailand is, you may be tempted to give your bird a spin without completing the paperwork. Do not.
If Thai police catch you flying without NBTC registration, you could face a fine of 100,000 THB (about $3200) or up to 5 years in prison. Flying without CAAT registration comes with a 40,000 THB (almost $1300) penalty and up to 1 year of prison time.
Though we have strived to provide you with the most updated Thai drone regulations to the best of our knowledge, please contact the relevant and qualified authorities (in this case, NBTC and CAAT) to ensure the correctness of the information. We take no responsibility for any loss or damage caused by relying on this information. And hey, if you have already flown a drone in Thailand, do share your experience with us in the comments section!
Ishveena is an independent journalist and writer with a passion for drones and location technologies. In the last 12 years, she has worked with both mainstream media organizations (Miami Herald International, Times of India, Microsoft MSN) and dedicated geospatial technology media (Geospatial World, Geoawesomeness). With a deep understanding of content marketing and social media, Ishveena also helps private companies (DJI, Terra Drone Corporation) to generate qualified leads through useful and timely content. When she is not making magic at her desk, you are likely to find Ishveena on road trips, eating her way through life, or binge-watching TV shows. Connect with her on Twitter: @IshveenaSingh