Restrictions on Flying Drones in Thailand

January 26, 2015
By

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The use of unmanned airborne vehicles (UAVs) or drones has been going on for more that ten years now in Thailand. They were widely used by the mass media during the protests and floods to show pictures of crowds and the extent of floods. At that time, the drones were massive and often needed two operators to fly them. One for the drone itself and the other to operate the camera. The price was also out of the range for private operators. The minimum was over 100,000 Baht if not double that. Then things changed towards the end of 2013 when DJI brought out their first affordable drone. That was when I first started flying drones in Thailand.

UPDATE: Quick Look at the New Drone Law in Thailand <<<<< 27 August 2014

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The drone that I bought in 2013, and still use today, is the DJI Phantom Vision 2. At that time it cost me 38,000 Baht which sounded cheap compared to the cost of the big drones I was previously contemplating on buying. However, since then, the price of my drone has dropped down to only 25,000 Baht as newer and better drones have been released. The best thing about the Phantom Vision is that it can be flown literally out of the box, even by amateurs. I was up and flying as soon as I was able to charge the batteries. The downside of this new and cheaper technology is that more people started to use them. Back then there was only one shop supplying this drone. Now there are at least half a dozen in Bangkok. I’m on Facebook with many of them and over the New Year period they were posting pictures almost daily of foreigners buying the drones.

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When I started flying it was still much a novelty. I use the drone mainly for my work to take aerial photos at tourist attractions (see Thailand From Above). There was a lot of interest in my pictures as it was showing familiar locations but from a new perspective. Like this Standing Buddha by the sea just South of Hua Hin. Most people have to take a side view from the beach. I think this seaview was one of the first from this unique angle. These days, when I’m taking pictures at festivals and other events, I always have competition with other drone pilots. At a recent event there were three other drones flying at the same time. These guys are either from the mass media or are Thai travel bloggers like myself. The Bangkok Post and The Nation both have their own drones and fly often.

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When I fly I always try to so responsibly. At a festival with large crowds, I always find a place first that is not so crowded so I can take off and land safely. If it’s too crowded I won’t fly. Secondly, I won’t fly low over the heads of people. There has been a few occasions when I was taking pictures at an event with my DSLR when a drone flew over the crowd just inches above my head. That was very irresponsible. The props on the drone can do a lot of damage if it hits someone in the eye. They can also do a lot of damage if they drop out of the sky due to a battery error or some other malfunction. As more and more people are flying drones, the chances of someone being seriously hurt or, heaven forbid, killed increases.

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There hasn’t been much in the way of regulations, or certainly anything enforced, over the last few years as only professionals were using the drones. But now as more and more people are buying and flying them we are going to see regulations coming in sooner rather than later. Up to now, the only restrictions I’ve had were flying over palaces and military bases. It’s common sense. I would never try and fly inside the Grand Palace. It’s not even worth asking. But lately I’ve started seeing restrictions in other places. For example the parks in Bangkok. I was flying recently at the flower festival in Rama IX Park when I was chased down and told to stop. They said I had to get written permission in advance. The same thing happened at Ancient Siam. I was flying there when I was told to stop. Again I was told to get written permission. But elsewhere I have been fine so far, but I use common sense.

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In December 2014, news came out that government agencies were contemplating in bringing out legislation to control the use of drones in Thailand. This was inevitable. It has already been in the news that these UAVs were being used to smuggle drugs and mobile phones into prisons. And now that more and more people are using them for recreation, the chances of a serious accident happening has greatly increased. Also, we mustn’t forget that we are living under martial law at the moment and so there is always a worry about national security for the military junta. For myself I welcome legislation. When the time comes, I will try and apply for the license so that I can continue flying. However, at this moment in time, we don’t know the full extent of any restrictions that they might make. Or how it will affect ordinary people like myself.

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The new regulations on flying drones in Thailand are expected to be brought in during February 2015 under the Air Navigation Act. No details are known yet, but according to an article in the Bangkok Post this morning (see here), the general public will NOT be able to fly drones carrying cameras. It would seem that licenses for this will only be issued to businesses that need aerial photographs for their work, the mass media and film-makers. As a travel blogger I am not sure if I fit into this category but I will certainly try. Other restrictions expected to come in include flight height limits of between 15 and 150 meters, size and weight of drones, and the length of time they can fly. Nothing is set yet, but the BP is saying that you could face one year in prison and a fine of 40,000 Baht if you fly your drone illegally in Thailand.

I was actually thinking about buying a new drone that costs 95,000 Baht. But, I will now delay this until it is clear whether I can get a license or not. If you are thinking about buying or flying a drone in Thailand, I would also suggest that you rethink. No point in buying an expensive drone if you cannot fly it.

For aerial photos that I’ve taken all around Thailand over the last year or so, please visit my Thailand From Above website. Also follow me on Twitter @RichardBarrow for any live pictures that I tweet while flying.

58 Responses to Restrictions on Flying Drones in Thailand

  1. matt owens rees
    January 26, 2015 at 9:32 am

    Drones have become a dangerous nuisance near flight paths too. Regulation is long overdue and the big retailers are already lobbying against it. That may or not carry much weight with the present government. De[pends who controls those retailers.

    • Richard Barrow
      January 26, 2015 at 9:33 am

      The DJI drone won’t let you fly near airports around the world (in latest updated software). It also gives height warning if you fly too high in certain areas.

      • matt owens rees
        January 26, 2015 at 2:57 pm

        Didn’t realise that. Software controls may work where legislation will not. We all know that enforcement of regulations is a big problem in Thailand. Loi Kratongs are an annual problem around Chiangmai airport despite their use there being illegal.

  2. Reiner Max
    January 26, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    Of one side regulations are important but the total ban of drones
    with a camera is typical nonsense as this get not to the point.

    Why should be not allow to make an aerial video from my house?
    What is with all the small video quads there are selling.
    Or better-racing quads with FPV flying in a secure Aera.

    All this will be illegal as I understand these coming regulations.

    • Richard Barrow
      January 26, 2015 at 1:45 pm

      From past experience, I would say best to wait for the actual regulations to come out before commenting on the details. Nothing has been passed or approved yet. Plus there’s a big difference between a minister talking to the media and what is actually being sent to the Cabinet for approval.

      • Reiner Max
        January 26, 2015 at 1:52 pm

        Right, I believe this will be very interesting as I have a Project with
        Quads and hope for us.

  3. Phil Bedford
    February 26, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    Hi Richard

    Any news on the ban?

    Regards

    Phil

    • Richard Barrow
      February 26, 2015 at 8:06 pm

      Nothing so far. These things take time. I’m flying as normal.

  4. Simon
    April 1, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    1/4/15 I’m currently flying an inspire one in udon Thani
    But only out in the rice fields
    Got through customs from Aussie and into Bangkok with an Inspire one and a Vison 2 + v3 and 8 different batteries with out even a look in to my bags

  5. Trond
    April 1, 2015 at 9:07 pm

    Just arrived in Thailand with my drone, where can I get permission to fly. Making a book and video about Thailand.

    • Richard Barrow
      April 1, 2015 at 9:08 pm

      There are no laws against flying yet.

      • Trond
        April 1, 2015 at 9:20 pm

        Thanx, just the usual restrictions as height, and can see it. And be careful about where you fly. Not over people, military, and airports.

        Thank you for your quick reply

        Regards
        Trond Arne Hadeland

  6. Will
    April 6, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Hi Richard,

    Great site! Any news on whether it is still legal to fly in Thailand.
    It seems so, and after your above comment 5 days ago.

    But, what happens if one does get carted off to the police station?
    How would we prove that it it not illegal YET?

    Many thanks…

    Will

    • Richard Barrow
      April 6, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      No law has been passed so far. You will only get “carted off” to the police station if you try to fly over private property without permission or fly over or near a palace, military base or police station. Use common sense and you will be fine.

      • Will
        April 6, 2015 at 2:37 pm

        Great news! Thank you for your swift reply, Richard – much appreciated 🙂

  7. Marcel
    May 5, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    Hey Richard,

    I am going to travel to Thailand from June to August and I am thinking about taking my drone with me.
    Do I need a permission so far? If so, where can I get it?
    (I am a working in the film industry in germany, but the trip is a privat one).
    Would be great if a local like you could get me some tips 🙂
    What about flying in the countries around Thailand like Laos, Camboccia, Malaysia, Singapour and Indonesia? Do you know the laws there?

    Would be great to hear from you 🙂

    Thanks
    -Marcel

    • Richard Barrow
      May 5, 2015 at 10:19 pm

      So far, there are no laws against flying drones in Thailand, but you should take sensible precautions so you don’t get yourself into trouble.

      • Marcel
        May 5, 2015 at 10:54 pm

        Okay thanks.
        What do you mean with precautions?

        • Richard Barrow
          May 6, 2015 at 7:45 pm

          Fly safe. If there is a crowd, don’t fly. Keep line of sight. If there are palaces near by, don’t fly. Same goes with army bases. Common sense stuff.

          • Marcel
            May 6, 2015 at 8:39 pm

            Okay great, thank you.
            I am just scared a bit, cause I heared about imprisonment and huge money punishments…if you have no permission.
            Is this law still a work in progress?

          • Richard Barrow
            May 7, 2015 at 2:53 pm

            As I said in the blog post above, we are still waiting for the new regulations. The newspaper article said February but it is now May and no new laws have been passed yet.

  8. Charles
    May 18, 2015 at 1:12 am

    Hi Richard! Question what kind of problems would I come across at the airport when I bring my drone?

    • Richard Barrow
      May 18, 2015 at 6:15 am

      I’ve never faced any problems. I fly often. But make sure you put your batteries in fireproof bags and carry on with you.

  9. John
    June 12, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    Hello Richard,
    its june 12th alredy, is there any news about the regulations? Ive read so far that you said that its still possible to fly drones with cameras on them, but it was last month… so is it still ok? you wont get fined as long as you wont fly near goverment facilities and private properties without permmision?

    Thank you.

    • Richard Barrow
      June 12, 2015 at 8:12 pm

      Yes, I’m still flying often with no problems. Just use common sense and fly safely.

  10. Jiri
    June 12, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    Hey Richard, I am going to buy the parrot ar.20 elite edition, and I want to bring it on vacation this juli, to Malaysia and then Thailand, I want to use it in the nature, not close to any crowds, are their laws in thailad or Malaysia I should worry about?

    Thanks in advance

    Jiri Dubislav

    • Richard Barrow
      June 12, 2015 at 8:12 pm

      No problems in Thailand at this moment in Thailand.

      • Rod Gotfried
        June 16, 2015 at 9:01 pm

        Hi Richard,

        Thanks for posting these updates re: the Thai drone laws. I’m currently in Phuket shooting a hotel video and am looking to get some drone shots of the hotel and along Kata Beach (as soon as rthe weather improves). Hopefully all goes well!

        Cheers,

        Rod

  11. Jay
    June 27, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    Thanks for your informative posts.

    As I am to depart from BKK and fly to Japan and take my P3P for a holiday, where would you suggest I may find these battery fire proof bags in BKK which you mentioned? Thanks in advance, -Jay

    • Richard Barrow
      June 27, 2015 at 7:34 pm

      I bought at Hobby Thai but not sure if they have in stock. I also bought online from Hong Kong.

    • Phil
      June 29, 2015 at 10:05 am

      Hi Richard, I hear some new regulations are going to be introduced very soon and some owners from the Pattaya Flying Club have already had their drones confiscated. Twin Pro Hobby are apparently selling the C licence.

      Here are some of the new proposed guidelines:

      Class A license 200b that allows you to fly only in a club line of sight, Class B 2000b attend a school in Bangkok(they need 40 students) and show a work permit if not Thai to do commercial work.
      Class C, have a PPL and pay 2000b and attend a school and allowed to fly pro with larger camera

      No flying within 9km of Airport, the new regs are based on the Canadian regulations.

      Can you shed any light on this? This information has come from somebody at a Pattaya Flying Club and Thai Facebook groups

      • Richard Barrow
        June 30, 2015 at 6:35 am

        I haven’t heard anything about this lately, though I do know before all of this was reported in the newspapers that you could do training courses to get a license. But this was based on old regulations. Thanks for the heads up, I will see if I can find out what is going on.

  12. Bangkok Boby
    June 28, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    Hi Richard,
    I’m new to flying and now live in Bangkok. I have a Phantom 2 vision+. Do you know any parks or more low key places I can practice flying in the city?

    • Richard Barrow
      June 29, 2015 at 6:34 am

      I think you will find most parks now prohibit the flying of drones. You will need to find some wasteland near where you live. Google maps is good for this kind of thing. Just switch to satellite images.

  13. Michael
    July 15, 2015 at 2:53 am

    Hi Richard,
    I’ve been reading your posts about the laws in Thailand, common sense & Batteries on plains. It seems that the following would apply in Thailand as of July 14 2015:-
    1. Don’t fly need military bases
    2. Don’t fly near government buildings
    3. Keep line of site
    4. Some parks will require permission, so you must check with park.
    5. Drone’s and batteries should be checked through (not carry on) when flying. Didn’t quiet understand about batteries though.?
    6. Keep away from crouds, Safe flying.

    Thanks, hope my summary is correct.

    • Richard Barrow
      July 15, 2015 at 5:19 am

      You need to carry the batteries on with you. You cannot put them in check-in luggage due to risk of fire.

  14. John
    July 15, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for this post.
    Is there any document needed for Domestic and Internation thai-airport check in ? I am a photographer and just want to travel with DJI drone in Thailand.Thanks for reply.

    • Richard Barrow
      July 15, 2015 at 9:58 pm

      I’ve never been asked for anything at any airport.

  15. Harry
    August 2, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    Great site with good information. I’m bringing back a Syma X5sc Explorers 2 from UK to Chiang Mai, where I live. Just to learn to fly a bit ( and crash a few times ) before getting a Phantom 2 or 3. But will be a shame if the Thai law prevents people from flying in the future.

    • David
      August 7, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      Harry, would appreciate if you could report any difficulties with the Chiangmai airport customs and/or security with your Syma.

      Thanks

      • Harry
        August 8, 2015 at 12:30 am

        Yeah will do. Not coming back until possibly end of September. The Syma will be packed in a suitcase surrounded with clothes !!

  16. Harry
    August 17, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    Hi any news on new laws about flying in Thailand ? Where can you get the Class A license Club licence from (Hobbythai?) Just want fly at the local club and on my own land.

  17. Farshad
    August 19, 2015 at 1:20 am

    Bringing my phantom 3 from american. I have 5 batteries. I came there before with 4 without issue. I wonder if you know if 5 will put me over the top. I traveled to Mexico without issue from USA/NY. Carry on of course. My trip last year 2014

    • August 19, 2015 at 6:41 am

      I cannot say for sure. The best thing you can do is contact your airline. But, make sure you put them in fireproof bags.

  18. Travis
    August 29, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    I just ordered the phantom 3 professional from America and will bring it to Thailand. Is there any problem charging batteries in Thailand as the power is 220v and America is 110v

    • August 29, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      You mean other than blowing up? You would need a transformer.

    • Allan
      September 11, 2015 at 3:38 pm

      Your P3P charger is multivoltage ie 100-2040v. You don’t need a transformer. Thailand sockets are also 2 flat pin, so you’re all good.

  19. Travis
    August 29, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    if buy drone in Thailand does it come with the proper cable to charge it in thailand

  20. Travis
    August 29, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    if buy drone in Thailand does it come with the proper cable to charge it in thailand. Is it better to buy drone in Thailand then for charging battery reasons

  21. Sham
    August 31, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    Hi Richard,

    I am going over to Krabi, Aonang, next week.
    Is it permissible to fly a Phantom there?
    Will there be any issues with airport customs?
    Thanks in advance.

    • August 31, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      Law has just been published for drones. Please see link in red at the top of the page.

      • Sham
        August 31, 2015 at 5:33 pm

        Thanks for the heads up and informations.

  22. harry
    September 11, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    Hi Richard -well got through all the security checks back into Chiang Mai from UK no problem last Sunday morning with my little Syma x5 and 4 extra batteries. Not searched at all or ask any thing. Just need some time to fly it now !!

  23. Ed
    September 12, 2015 at 11:00 pm

    Hi Richard
    Do you know if anything regarding regulations changed after recent bombing in Bangkok?
    Thanks for all the info here.





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