Taking a drone on your next trip? Here’s what you need to know

Sep 14, 2019

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Drones are becoming increasingly popular these days when it comes to tourism. With the ability to take stunning photos or videos that will make all of your Instagram followers jealous, it’s tempting to just pack your drone and head off on your next adventure.

However, as two travel bloggers found on a recent trip to Iran, your drone might just land you in jail if you aren’t aware of a country’s specific regulations. Jolie King and Mark Firkin were arrested in Tehran for operating their drone without a government permit, which is against the law, in July and are now awaiting trial.

As an incident at London Gatwick Airport in 2018 showed, drone sightings in the area led the second busiest airport in Britain to be shut down for 36 hours over three days. The results: around 1,000 canceled flights and an estimated 140,000 to 200,000 passengers’ travel plans being impacted. It is a criminal offense in the UK to endanger the safety of an aircraft — a charge that would carry up to a five-year prison sentence if convicted, according to the BBC. The UK also made it illegal to fly a drone within one kilometer (about 0.6 miles) of an airport or above 400 feet in the air. Breaking either of those two regulations could mean five years in prison or an unlimited fine — or potentially both.

In addition to being a nuisance, drones (also referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVS) can easily damage aircraft if they come in contact with them. In a report last year, the FAA says drones cause more damage to aircraft than bird strikes do (watch this video showing the tiny UAV’s ripping apart an airplane’s wing).

Factors like these have led to more and more countries moving to regulate the use of drones. The best thing you can do to protect yourself when if traveling and using a drone abroad is to know what the local laws are regarding the use of drones before you get to your destination.

There are a number of websites that offer up-to-date information regarding drone laws around the world. One such site, UAV Systems International, offers a listing of each country’s laws. In Iran, for example, the site states, “Drone use with a permit is allowed … but there are several drone laws that need to be followed when flying in the country,” and lists the following requirements:

  • Do not fly your drone over people or large crowds
  • Do not fly your drone over the city of Tehran
  • Respect others privacy when flying your drone
  • Do not fly your drone over airports or in areas where aircraft are operating
  • You must fly during daylight hours and only fly in good weather conditions
  • Do not fly your drone in sensitive areas including government or military facilities. Use of drones or camera drones in these areas are prohibited

Travelers looking for additional information also have the option to reach out to the embassy in a country for help on information or local laws as well.

As with most things, arming yourself with knowledge before a trip is always the best bet. Make sure you understand the laws regarding what paperwork you may need to complete in order to operate a UVA, and know the regulations regarding where and when you can operate your drone.

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Featured Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

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