Taking your drone into a different country — or simply a different state?
Some U.S. states also have specific drone laws, and most countries have some sort of official drone laws. And specific state or country drone laws vary dramatically — even if the areas aren’t geographically far apart. While Saudi Arabia outright bans drones and will even confiscate them at customs, neighboring countries like the United Arab Emirates and Oman have been quick to embrace them.
So can you legally fly your drone in X country that you plan on traveling to, and if yes, then how?
My friends over at UAV Coach updated their master list of drone laws by country and U.S. state. It’s helpful if you’re traveling somewhere and want to confirm if you should bring your drone or if you want to check out the laws in your home area. It’s in plain English — no legalese — and meant to be easily digestible.
There you can find out if you need to register, if you need a license, and if you can even bring that drone into the country. Though, sometimes it seems laws change on an almost-daily basis, so I would also check with each country’s aviation regulatory agency’s website as well.
Personally I love flying drones internationally — it’s a great way to stretch yourself and explore new spots. I had a blast this summer exploring the bleak yet beautiful Arctic Tundra in Somerset Island as part of a trip with Quark Expeditions (Canada has very clear, easy-to-follow drone laws, by the way!.
Note that most drone laws start to kick in as soon as you arrive and go through security. Keep that in mind even if you don’t plan to fly a drone in a country, but have a layover.
I’ve heard everything about drone trouble in airport security from drones being confiscated, to travelers being asked to leave their drone at customs and being told they could pick it up at the end of their trip. Just ask filmmaker Chafic Saad, who arrived at the customs department in Bali, which would not let them bring a drone through despite what they though was the proper paperwork.
“They thought I was going to sell it,” he said. “I had to put down a deposit of $2,000 US dollars and it would not have been returned if I didn’t bring the money back. That was scary.”
Also keep in mind that most airlines impose their own restrictions on flying with batteries. With most airlines, you can only travel with three drone batteries per passenger. (If you need to travel with four, give the spare ones to your travel companion to hold onto). In most cases, your batteries must also remain below 100 watt hours per battery. If they exceed that, you must receive specific airline approval. You can check your drone’s user manual to check your battery’s watt hours. This site has detailed descriptions of airline battery rules, if you want to go a little more in the weeds.
Note that the UAV Coach master list of drone laws by country is not necessarily exhaustive and not written by aviation attorneys, so it goes without saying that you should perform additional research on your intended application of sUAS and chosen airspace.