When you want to fly a drone in Thailand, you have to take some hurdles. In this article, I explain you which conditions you have to fulfill.
In recent years, the rules for drone pilots in Thailand have changed very often. There are many confusions, and not all the information you find on the internet is up to date. But I will try to give you an up-to-date and complete overview of the legal situation in the Kingdom.
As a drone user, you should know two authorities in Thailand:
- The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT)
- Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC)
You must obtain a permit from both authorities to allow a drone to ascend in Thailand legally. There are only very few exceptions (more on that later).
Get permission from the CAAT
The CAAT regulates air traffic in Thailand. Since 2017, registration with the CAAT is required if your drone is equipped with a camera or weighs more than 2 kilograms. This means that all common drones (including DJI Mavic and DJI Spark) must be registered.
You will need to attach a copy of your ID card, passport, registration certificate and proof of drone insurance. The insurance confirmation should be in English and contain the following critical data:
- Full name of the policyholder
- Brand, model, and weight of insured drone(s)
- Worldwide validity must be clear
- Coverage of the insurance
You can send the complete documents to email@example.com. If you have any questions, please call CAAT on 0066 (0) 2568 8815.
After you have sent the complete documents, the CAAT checks your application. It will contact three other authorities: the National Intelligence Agency, the Office of the Narcotics Control Board and the Immigration Bureau. This background check is to ensure that you have not committed any legal violations in Thailand yet.
Since the examination of your person is very time-consuming, you have to expect a processing time of three to four months!
Permission from the NBTC
Approval from the NBTC becomes necessary if your drone weighs more than 250 grams and is operated with a controller. The NBTC regulates the radio frequencies in Thailand.
Registering with the NBTC is easy within 10-15 minutes at one of the NBTC offices. Currently, there are different empirical values, whether the CAAT passes on your data to the NBTC. If you got your approval from the CAAT, you should ask if you still have to take care of this authorization or if the CAAT has already taken over this step for you.
However, if registration with the NBTC is not carried out and the police catch you, then you may face up to 5 years imprisonment or a fine of 100,000 THB.
Frequently asked questions about drone rules in Thailand
I would like to answer the questions most commonly asked in the comments here:
- Do I have to register my DJI Spark / DJI Mavic Pro / … for my Thailand vacation?
Yes, because these drones have a camera. You can find more information above.
- I only visit Thailand in transit and do not want to start my drone in Thailand. Can I get in trouble if I have no registration?
There should be no problems. The customs are not interested in drones, and the registrations are only required for the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles. However, it can be critical if you get the impression that you want to resell the drone in Thailand (for example, if you import the drone in its original sealed packaging).
- I am flying to Thailand in a few weeks/days and would like to take my drone with me. Now I have read that I have to do the registration. What can I do now?
It’s too late to register with the CAAT. Nevertheless, I would send the documents in your situation. So if in doubt, you have something in your hand, what you can show on site. Besides, you should register with the NBTC in Thailand. Also, you can go to a police station in Thailand and get a permit there. I’m not sure what legal validity these approvals have. But some pilots have received an official document in this way, which they can show at a check. With all these documents, you can demonstrate your goodwill and improve your position significantly, if it should come to questions.
If you shy away from the effort, you’d better leave your drone at home.
- How long does it take to register with the CAAT?
The current experience of our readers is between 75 and 104 days. However, I hope that the number of registrations will be reduced in the course of 2018, thus shortening the processing time.
Operation of multicopters in Thailand
After completing the registration of your drone, of course, there are more rules. Here is an overview of the most important provisions.
Maximum flight altitude: In Thailand, drones are allowed to climb a maximum of 90 meters (=300 feet).
Maximum horizontal distance and FPV: Your drone must be always in sight.
Compulsory insurance: Drone insurance is compulsory in Thailand. The insurance must cover damages of at least one million baht (about 27,000 euro).
Maximum take-off weight(MTOW): If you want to fly privately and no camera is mounted on your drone, a maximum take-off weight of 2 kilograms applies to your multicopter. For a higher weight, you need the approval of the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT). From a starting weight of 25 kilograms, you need a separate approval from the Ministry of Transport.
Distance to airports: You have to stay 9 kilometers (= 5 miles) away from airports.
Other safe distances: You may approach a maximum of 30 meters of people, vehicles, and buildings. The prescribed distance is 50 meters for approved drones.
Flight bans: You must not fly near crowds. It is not allowed to fly over cities and villages.
Flight approval: You must always obtain the permission of the landowner to start and land. In practice, we usually solve this in such a way that we ask the guards for permission or inform us at the info counters.
Time of operations: Drone flights are allowed in Thailand only in daylight, so in the time between sunrise and sunset.
Specific regulations: In Thailand, a minimum age of 20 is required to operate a multicopter.
Regulations for commercial pilots: Commercial pilots need permission for their flight maneuvers.
Good to know: Flights in Chiang Mai must be generally approved by the air traffic control because the airport is so close to the city. We have obtained the appropriate permission. But you should call a few days before so that the colleagues in the tower can coordinate with their bosses. Also, the approval of overflights in the historic park of Ayutthaya is necessary. The Historical Park Office grants the permission, which is open daily from 8:30 to 16:30. According to the tourist information, the permit costs 5,000 baht.
We have researched the listed drone regulations for Thailand to the best of our knowledge. We cannot guarantee the correctness of the information. If you want to be on the safe side, contact the Thai aviation authority. Alternatively, you can also ask the Thai embassy in your country for further information about the regulations. Please leave us a comment when you receive news and/or gain experience with your copter in Thailand!