One of the most common questions I have received on my blog this year is about the use of drones in Thailand. This followed the dramatic headlines earlier this year that drones would be outlawed. I wrote a blog about it at the time saying that the writer of the newspaper article had jumped the gun. Yes, I admitted, the time would come when there would be restrictions on flying. But, as of that time, you were still free to fly drones in Thailand. That is, if you were careful where you flew and to make sure you had permission when flying from private property. Now finally comes the publication of the the new and updated drone law in the Royal Gazette.
There is no official translation in English yet, so this is just a quick, first look at the law. I will blog in more details later once things become clearer. Please don’t copy and paste this “quick look” onto forums or other blogs as It is most likely I will update and/or clarify some of the points below over the coming week. There are a few things I need to check. As always, if you have anything to add or you think I have made a mistake in the translation, then please post in the comments below.
There are two types of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles:
CATEGORY 1: Used for hobby or other recreational use such as entertainment or sport.
CATEGORY 2: Used for TV news, movie making etc
If you have a drone in Category 1 that weighs less than two kilos and you are 18 years or older, than you don’t need permission to fly from the Ministry of Transport. But, you do need to obey the following rules:
1. Before flight
(a) Check that the drone and remote control is in a good condition to fly
(b) You have permission from the owner of the land where you wish to fly
(c) You have checked the environment and airspace of the location you are flying
(d) You have an emergency plan in case of an accident
2. During the flight
(a) It is forbidden to fly in a way that may cause harm to the life, property and peace of others.
(b) It is forbidden to fly in restricted zones as announced in “Aeronautical Information Publication – Thailand” and also at government buildings and hospitals unless permission is given.
(c) The take-off and landing must not be obstructed by anything
(d) You must keep the drone in line-of-sight at all times and not rely on the monitor or other devices
(e) You can only fly between sunrise and sunset when the drone can clearly be seen
(f) It is forbidden to fly in or near clouds
(g) It is forbidden to fly within nine kilometres of an airport or in the flight path unless you have permission from aircraft control.
(h) It is forbidden to fly higher than ninety metres above the ground.
(i) It is forbidden to fly over cities, villages, communities or areas where people are gathered.
(j) Do not fly near other aircraft that have pilots
(k) Do not violate the privacy rights of others
(l) Do not cause a nuisance to others
(m) Do not mount anything danergous or lasers on the drone
(n) It is forbidden to fly closer than 30 meters to people, vehicles or buildings
If your drone is in Category 1 but weighs more than two kilos but less than 25 kilos, you must be at least twenty years of age, not a threat to national security and never been imprisoned. You must also have a license to fly from the Director General of the Department of Civil Aviation. You have to follow the rules as outlined above but in addition you must have more knowledge about drone maintence and safety and aircraft rules. You must have emergency equipment on hand such as fire extinguisher. You also must have third party insurance of not less than one million Baht. Finally, in the list above, clause (n) the distance between drone and people, buildings, cars etc cannot be less than 50 metres. If you have an accident, you must inform authorities immediately.
Drones in Category 2 have to be licensed and insured and obey the rules the same as drones in Category 1 that are heavier than two kilos.
The source for this is the Royal Gazette. It was published on 27 August 2015 and it usually then takes 30 days before it becomes law. If you have a DJI Phantom like me, and only use it for recreational use, then you don’t need a license. If you have anything bigger, like a DJI Inspire, then you need a license and insurance. If you use for commercial reasons, then again, you need a license and insurance. If you have any comments or better translations of the law, then please post in the comments. I will then update the blog.