Updated with information that you must register with both NBTC and CAAT and get insurance before you can fly. This can take at least two months.
If you intend to fly a drone in Thailand, whether as a hobby or for commercial reasons, you have to by law register your drone first. If you don’t you could face a fine of up to 100,000 Baht or even up to five years in prison. They are serious about this, so before you fly, make sure you register your drone with the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC). In addition, if your drone has a camera (any weight) or weighs over two kilos then you need to obtain insurance and get permission to fly from the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT). Their fine for not doing this is up to 40,000 Baht and up to one year in prison. Before you ask, if you have a toy drone, for example weighing less than 250g, then the NBTC or CAAT are not interested.
Scroll down for how to register your drone and for links to download the forms.
When I first started flying drones in Thailand I hardly ever saw any other drone pilots. I also didn’t face any problems about where I could fly. Security guards would come over if they saw me flying, not because it was illegal, but because they were curious to see the live pictures from above. Sadly, those days are long gone. Security guards are more likely to chase you away or sometimes you will see signs like the one above which prohibits the flying of drones. This is not necessarily because of any new laws, it is mainly because just about everyone decided to get a drone for Christmas. Now, with so many people flying, it is no longer the novelty and people, sometimes quite rightly, are fed up with the buzzing sound of the drones flying low over their heads.
When I attend an event these days, there are usually four or five drones flying. And quite honestly, some of these pilots are very dangerous. They are not keeping their drones in line of sight. They are just watching their screens. Which means the possibility of a collision is quite high. I have seen them go down before, either crashing into buildings, trees and power lines, or just colliding with another drone. I tend not to fly at events any more. Partly because it is distracting to people who might be watching a show, but also it is quite dangerous if there is a large crowd. The number one rule for drone pilots is to make sure you have a wide and clear area in case of an emergency landing. This kind of thing is why the Ministry of Transport came out with a new law about the use of drones in Thailand.
Scroll down for the law regarding drones in Thailand.
Even after you have registered your drone with the NBTC, bought insurance and have permission to fly from CAAT, you still need to obey the following rules. If not, you will be subject to a fine and maybe imprisonment.
Once you have permission from the land owner to fly, you must obey these rules while flying:
- must not fly in a way that may cause harm to the life, property and peace of others
- must not fly into restricted area, limited area and dangerous area announced in Aeronautical Information Publication – Thailand or AIP-Thailand and also at government buildings and hospitals unless permission is given.
- take-off and landing area must not be obstructed by anything
- must keep the Unmanned Aircraft in line-of-sight at all times and not rely on the monitor or other devices
- must only fly between sunrise and sunset when the Unmanned Aircraft can clearly be seen
- must not fly in or near clouds
- must not fly within 9 km (5 nautical miles) from airport or temporary airfield unless having permission from the airport or airfields operators
- must not fly over 90 meters above the ground
- must not fly over cities, villages, communities or areas where people are gathered
- must not fly near other aircraft that have pilots
- must not violate the privacy rights of others
- must not cause a nuisance to others
- must not deliver or carry dangerous items or lasers on the Unmanned Aircraft
- must not fly horizontally closer than 30 meters (100 feet) to people, vehicles, constructions or buildings
Before I continue, I should point out something in the above infographic released by CAAT which is contradictory to the regulations. The infographic says you need to have a licence to fly if your drone has a camera, even if it is less than two kilos. But, the regulations do not say anything about that. From what I, and other people understood, if you have a small drone like a Spark or Mavick that weighs less than two kilos, you do not need to get permission to fly from CAAT. As long as you are not using it for commercial reasons and you obey the above rules. However, officials we have spoken to at CAAT insist that you still have to get permission to fly. We asked specifically about the smallest of drones, DJI Spark, and they said yes, we would need insurance and permission to fly.
Scroll down for how to register your drone with NBTC.
If you intend to fly a drone in Thailand, then by Thai law you must register it first with the NBTC. If you don’t, you are violating the Communications Radio Act. Apparently, only 350 drones have been registered up to now out of an estimated 50,000 drones in Thailand. Which is why there is now a crackdown on drones. Before, we probably would have gotten away with flying without a license if we were discreet. But, now, thanks to all of the publicity, everyone knows that you must register your drone or you will face up to five years in prison. It was front page news in the Bangkok Post (see the article here) and other national newspapers.
The following is what I did to register my drones with NBTC in Bangkok. They have 17 offices around Thailand, and so you don’t need to do this here. Also, you are apparently allowed to register at your local police station. I know people who have done this, but make sure you download the form in advance as they won’t know anything about it. My advice is to go to your local NBTC officer. In Thai it is “กสทช.”, just search for it on google maps. For the one in Bangkok, it is on Soi Phahonyothin 8. Click here for the map link. When you arrive, you will see the big building in the photo above. You need to go to Building 2, first floor. From the front gate, turn right and walk down a path. Don’t go through security. You will see the building on your right near the road.
Before you go, you should prepare the following. If you do so, then you will be in and out in just five minutes. That is how long it took me to register my two drones.
- Sign a copy of your passport
- Proof of address like house registration, lease, rental contract or work permit (this is new)
- Photos of your drone and the serial number on your drone
- Two copies of the filled in application form
That’s it if you are just flying as a hobby like myself. If you are media or a registered company, then there are more documents that you need.
- You don’t need to take your drone into the office. Though some people did.
- Stick the photos on a piece of A4 paper and then sign the sheet of paper.
- You need a set of documents for each of your drones.
- The serial numbers are on a sticker on the drone box. I took a picture of that.
- Print the application form on both sides of a sheet of paper. Or pick one up at their office.
- The filled in form needs to be photocopied. This is what they stamp and return to you.
The first three fields to fill in are for “Day/Month/Year”
The next section is about the weight of your drone. I ticked the first one as my drones are less than 2 kilos. The others are for between 2 and 25 kilos, and for more than 25 kilos.
Number 5 is your first name and number 6 is your family name. Number 7 is your age. Number 8 and 9 is your nationality. I wrote UK.
Numbers 10-12 is your birthday written as Day/Month/Year. Number 13 is your ID card number. I wrote my passport number.
Number 15-21 is your address. 15 is the house number, 16 the Soi number, 17 the road name, 18 the Tambon or kwang name, 19 the Amphoe or Khet name, 20 the province name, and 21 the post code. Number 22 is your telephone number. I didn’t fill in the rest.
UPDATE: They didn’t ask me for proof of address when I went, but now they apparently are. I’m not sure yet what tourists can do about this.
I didn’t fill in Section 2 as I am a private individual. Continue to page two.
For Number 23, I ticked the first box as I just fly for a hobby. The others are for media, businesses etc.
For Number 24, I wrote the name of my drone. For Number 25 it is asking for the number of drones and rotors. I wrote one drone and four rotors. I was registering a DJI Phantom 3 and a DJI Spark. I did this on two different forms. I guess if you have two of the same then use the same form.
For number 26, I wrote the serial number of the drone. As I said before, it is on a sticker on your box. Number 27 is the weight. Number 28 is for what equipment is fixed. I said camera. Number 29 is the maximum height it can go in meters. Number 30 is the frequency. For mine I wrote 2.400 – 2.483 GHz.
That’s it. Sign your name and then write your name clearly in the brackets below. The other signatures are for the officials. Hand them into the officer at the reception. It took them about five minutes to check everything and stamp it. The registration is free at the moment.
UPDATED: When I went to the NBTC office, the official said that there was no need for me to do anything else. They said they would forward my application to CAAT. But people who went later are reporting that NBTC officials are now saying that you also need to get permission to fly from CAAT. This is because at NBTC you are just registering your radio communications device. I rang CAAT and an official there confirmed this. They also added you need to get insurance first before they would accept your application. The whole process will take about two months. Maybe longer now as over 1,300 drones were registered at NBTC in the first week alone.
If you want to do that yourself, then click here for the forms and regulations in English. If you search for Thai drone insurance on Facebook you will find some companies that offer it. If you have experience of registering your drone in Thailand, or you have any questions, then please feel free to post them below in the comments. Please remember, if you do fly your drone in Thailand, please do so responsibly. It only needs one person to fly over the Grand Palace or crash into an aircraft for drones to be banned for everyone.
This is the second draft of my blog. I will come back and add more details later. I advise bloggers and reporters not to just copy and paste the above as I am changing and updating things often. One national newspaper already wrote an article based on my blog. Unfortunately for them and their readers I have updated it with new pertinent information.