Drone regulations in Sri Lanka

UPDATE 2019
In response to the terrible terrorist attacks of April 2019, the government has decided to ban drone flights until further notice. Already granted permits lose their validity. The information below is (temporarily) out of date.
Flying drones in Sri Lanka

In this post, we have summarized the drone laws in Sri Lanka for you.

In Sri Lanka, you must apply for a permit from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) before using a copter. You can find the forms in English for this purpose on the CAA website linked below or for download here. The permit costs about 3,900 Rs for one operation and 33,000 Rs for an unlimited number of places for more than 30 days.

First, register your drone at the Civil Aviation Authority’s online database. When your account is approved, you can enter the technical specifications and photos of your drone there. Note: Registration for foreigners is only temporary.

The CAA grants approval for the relevant airfields only after confirmation from the Department of Defense. Depending on how many locations you request, the processing time may be several days.

This means, in the next step you will need a “Security Clearance” from the Office of the Chief of Defense Staff (OCDS). To do so, send all the flight dates, locations and specifications of the drone you are using by e-mail to [email protected] or by fax (preferred means of communication) to +94 11 2 674507. You can download a template here.

If you want to fly in protected areas, you may also need approvals from other authorities. They need to certify that they have no objections. For example, the Department of Archeology would be responsible for archaeological sites, the Department of Wild Life for national parks, and the Forest Department for forests.

Once you have the documents from the OCDS and any other authorities, you should send them along with completed form CAA/AS/017 by e-mail to the CAA (contact: [email protected], [email protected]). This should be done at least 5 business days before you intend to start drone operations.

The CAA will now send you an invoice. Some of our readers have already done that and report that it is best to make the transfer directly at the bank in Sri Lanka. Once the CAA has a copy of the receipt, you should receive your approval letter very quickly.

Overview: Drone rules in Sri Lanka

Recreational use of drones allowed? Yes, after registration or approval
Commercial use of drones permitted? Yes, after registration or approval
Maximum Altitude:150 Foot (45,7 Meter) in uncontrolled airspace.
Is drone insurance mandatory? Yes, for private and commercial drone flights. Learn more about drone insurance here.
Does the drone need a badge?Yes.
Drone labels can be ordered here
Is a registration necessary? Yes.
Keep distance to airports
Respect the privacy of other people
Contact information

Office of the Chief of Defence Staff:
Tel.: +94 11 2674503; +94 11 2674506
Fax: +94 11 2 674507 (Fax wird bevorzugt)
Email: [email protected]

Civil Aviation Authority:

  • Manager /Aircraft Accident & Incident Investigation
    Tel.: +94 11 2358817
    Fax: +94 11 2257154
    Email: [email protected]
  • Assistant Manager /Aircraft Accident & Incident Investigation
    TP: +94 11 2358819
    Fax: +94 11 2257154
    Email: [email protected]
  • Further enquiries: [email protected][email protected][email protected]

    Further regulations for drone pilots in Sri Lanka

    Good to know: Sri Lanka has four drone categories, according to weight:

    • A: over 25 kilograms
    • B: 1 – 25 kilograms
    • C: 200 grams – 1 kilogram
    • D: less than 200 grams

    For the operation of drones in categories A, B and C, there is an age limit of 18 years. They also have to be marked with their registration number, your passport number and contact information. Owners of these drones must have liability insurance.

    Drones weighing less than 200 grams (Category D), which are used for private purposes on private land or designated areas and are not equipped with a camera, do not require a permit if they fly below 150 feet (45 meters). Note that registration and approval are required as soon as the drone has a camera, no matter how much it weighs.

    In Sri Lanka, your drone may only be operated within visual line of sight. Drone flights at night require a separate approval from the CAA.

    Keep the following safety distances:

    • 100 meters to crowds
    • 50 meters to people, vehicles and buildings
    • 100 meters to congested areas (like cities)
    • 5 miles (8 kilometers) to airports

    Special rules for drone flying in Sri Lanka

    Drones should not be faster than 87 knots (about 160 km/h). Flights within buildings must also be approved by the CAA.

    In addition, operating drones is prohibited from a moving object (car, boat, etc.) or an elevation (such as a roof). Do not fly over roads, rails, power lines or near communication towers. It is forbidden to control the drone under the influence of intoxicants. Get the permission of the owner when flying over private grounds.

    Be aware of signs that indicate “No Drone Zones”. There are often strict controls in these areas.

    Note: When we were in Sri Lanka, there were no such provisions or no one knew something about them. So we did not have to go through this bureaucratic hurdle.

    We have researched the listed drone regulations for Sri Lanka to the best of our knowledge. We can not guarantee the correctness of the information. If you want to be on the safe side, please contact the competent aviation authority. Alternatively, you can also ask the embassy in your country for further information about the regulations. Please leave us a comment when you receive news or gain experiences with your copter in Sri Lanka!

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    About the author

    Since January 2015, we travel around the world. In our backpack we carry a camera drone which we use to capture the best places from a bird’s perspective. First we travelled with a DJI Phantom 2. But now we use a Yuneec Typhoon H. On our blog we share the best tips for you about travelling with a copter. If you have questions about this article or new information, don’t hesitate to leave us a comment!

    Discussions

    • Kenneth | 10.04.2017

      I have to relate my very unpleasant experience as a tourist in sri lanka

      I have been to many countries and used a drone to record the sights and sounds of the country  thereby promoting its culture and tourism

      I fully comply with all regulations and am respectful of resident drone laws

      However i was stopped by custom officials from bringing a drone in. It is a recreational drone dji phantom weighing less than 1 kg

      This is mystifying to me since i understand that you require a license to operate one but as far as i know the recreational drone is not banned in sri lanka and is in fact sold in hobby shops throughout the country

      They tell me i need a permit issued by the ministry of defense to bring it in.  The process for application of such a permit is not transparent or apparent

      As a result i had no choice but to have my very expensive drone equipmentremanded in luggage until my departure

      This is very distressing for a tourist visiting sri lanka for the first time. Their applications bylaws and processes are not transparent or easiy accessible

      Dr kenneth wong

      Singapore

      • Braus | 18.04.2017

        I am travelling around the world and I gave up on Sri Lanka because of that.

        If you dig deep into their website you will find that it is required a permit and location/date/time of your operations which is ridiculous.

        You should be happy that they did not confiacated it.

        Instead I went to the Philippines and used my drone (DJI mavic pro) every day.

    • Wang CM | 22.09.2017

      Hi, thanks for your information, if I wanna bring DJI SPARK to Sri Lanka, should I report to customs ?
      How may I apply ?

      • Raymond | 02.10.2017

        Same for me… can you answer?

      • adosq | 12.12.2017

        I have same question. 🙂 Coul you please answer?
        Thank you.
        I want go with dji spark on vacation in sri lanka.

        • adosq | 12.12.2017

          i found answer below, sry 😀

    • Francis Markert | 26.10.2017

      Hello Wang and Raymond,
      As far as I know, you don’t have to declare the drone at the customs office. But you need to register the drone with the CAA, and you have to ask for flight permission from the ministry of defense.

    • Peter | 06.01.2018

      I have recently confirmed the requirements with CAASL.
      The following steps are required:
      1. Register you drone with CAASL
      2. Seek a security clearance from Defence. Ensure this is done well in advance.
      3. Seek a flight clearance from CAASL for EVERY flight and list the exact date and location. Ensure this is done well in advance.
      4. Seek approval from the local police authority of the location you would like to fly.

      For flight clearance of a single instance the cost is 3,500LKR or for a 30 day clearance the price is roughly 35,000LKR (close to $230 USD).

    • Dhaanish | 24.03.2018

      Can i bring my drone to sri lanka

      • Francis Markert | 28.03.2018

        Hello Dhaanish,
        You find all relevant information in the article above 🙂

    • Deepal | 14.04.2018

      I feel this document would be useful for you. http://www.caa.lk/images/stories/pdf/implementing_standards/sn053.pdf

    • Shen | 16.04.2018

      Wow Francis – you certainly have quite a lovely travel portfolio from all across the globe, with special references to the pros and cons (so to speak) of taking a drone with you.

      We have been planning on visiting Sri Lanka later this year and taking my DJI Air – but after stumbling across your article and doing a little home work I can see that Sri Lanka is certainly not a drone friendly nation. Its totally understandable considering their 30 year bloody civil war a few years back. But for us tourists – its a major dampener.

      We will effectively cancel all travel plans to Sri Lanka and perhaps look into The Maldives instead. Cheers again for your valuable insights.

      PS: We are a London based freelance photographers/videographers, but this trip is as a holiday.
      https://www.budgetphotographerlondon.co.uk/

      • Francis Markert | 29.06.2018

        Thank you Shen for your comment! Enjoy your trip! 🙂

        • Anuradha Kosala Thalpewela | 01.07.2018

          First of all, Huge thanks for Francis Markert, the person who made this site. Without him, I’ll be unable to share my thoughts and experiences with you. So, big thanks to him..

          Sorry for bad English because my mother tongue is Sinhala..

          Hey folks, Tell you what. I’m a young Sri Lankan. Let me introduce myself. I’m 18 Years old and I currently own and I pilot three badass drones – DJI Inspire 1 V.2.0 and DJI Inspire 2 and also a DJI Mavic PRO. I’m a reputable aerial photographer and a cinematographer in the industry even I look like a normal kid to you.. Oh, I forgot to tell you that my little brother is a drone pilot like me. He is a huge lover of DJI Drones.. We’re piloting them since 2 years..and We’ve never crashed one of them. Yes, you read right..We never crashed one of them.. We think we are fast learners. If we both got a chance to pilot a drone that we’ve never operated once, me and my brother can pretty much figure out how to launch and capture an amazing shot and land safely around 30 Minutes..So, here is what i think about this topic..

          Sri Lanka is a beautiful country with beautiful locations…Let’s get straight into the point. Most people in Sri Lanka are ridiculous about drones. Specially, Law enforcement officers and Government officials. They’re real nervous about drones.. I’ve visited almost every inch of my country. Almost. When I prepare to take off, I’m much more cautious about my dear drones when there are local Government officials or Law enforcement officers.
          Even if you are a reputable drone pilot, They threaten you as ” You shouldn’t bring this kinda equipment to this area. Do you have any permission to fly in this vicinity? Who gave it to ya? These are not toys, who knows you’re spying using these. You shouldn’t do things like this. Isn’t it better with a Handheld camera rather than flying a thing like this? This might fall on someone and kill him and BLAH BLAH BLAH..I think they’re imagining that we can spy onto a specific location and drop atomic bombs or some kinda shit by using this drones. They think we can ‘Bring the rain”.

          That’s why I’m a big hater of this “Drone Laws” in our country. They’re made for bribery; In fact, Whole cost which need for you to license a drone in here is a TOTAL WASTE.. What country in the world having these kind of sky high fees for registering or licensing a recreational Drone? Really? I’m merely sayin you that even if you’re CAA licensed, You’ll have to pay a specific charge or a permission fee something for flying in monumental, famous areas which get tourist attraction throughout the seasons.. and that thing is same to us, the locals like me….. and sometimes it’s multiplied twice or thrice the amount you pay normally. Personally, I do not like to be biased politically. But i must say this. You should know that, our whole government system is heavily corrupted and you’ll get no permission for your blah blah years of experience and expert flying skills. Even our neighbors are real lunatics about drones. When I’m flying my drone, in my yard, for testing purposes, they always seems agitated and full of anger. No matter how professional pilot you are, almost all the people in this country is crazy about the drone industry.

          But, there is something important..Sri Lanka has some few mighty guys who pilots drones, owns drones, loves drones and real fans of drones and they are your real friends in Sri Lanka. Yes, they exists… Next time you visit my country, Try to find one of those guys and you’ll never get into trouble. And finally, If you’re still a lucky visitor of my country, Join our official Facebook group called “DFGSL – Drone Fans Group of Sri Lanka” as you can find lot of drone enthusiasts like me and you can get much more help, info about local regualtions and whatever you need to fly without any trouble here.. We’re a group of locals who love to share each other’s experiences..We’re a one happy family. Join us & Don’t forget to read the Group’s Description before posting something..I’ll catch you guys later. Bye for now and have a productive day!

          My Facebook Profile – https://www.facebook.com/AnuradhaKosalaT
          My Gmail – http://[email protected]
          My brother’s Facebook Profile – https://www.facebook.com/dakshinakosala.thalpewela
          My brother’s Gmail – [email protected]
          Fellow drone pilots, Hit us with your questions.

    • Dave Lovely | 01.05.2018

      I am currently in Sri Lanka and have my DJI Magic Pro with me. Although I am not using it. But as I am traveling for several months it many countries I have it with me. What you should know is that when you enter Sri Lanka at the airport, get your bags, and exit through the “Nothing To Declare” lane your bags are not checked. So entering with a drone is not a problem. Of course there is an off chance you may randomly get selected to have customs check your luggage so if you are the kind that is extremely paranoid you might skip Sri Lanka but everyone else go right ahead.

      • Francis Markert | 29.06.2018

        Hi Dave,
        Good to know. Thank you for your feedback. Enjoy your trip!

      • Max | 25.07.2018

        most of these ridiculous laws are “posed” by government officials who’re clueless about the impact it has on the tourism industry nor has any knowledge of how to properly regulate the process. eg: They banned fullface helmets after one guy robbed a bank wearing one. lol. Dave’s absolutely right about how to “get it done”. and trust me if all the laws we have in this contry were enforced we’d be a very happy nation. so bring your shit.. do some awesome shooting and have fun. just be a little discrete about it. love the country hate the system. I’m a Srilankan for the record and owns a spark.

      • Kate Tessaro | 10.08.2018

        Dave, thanks for the info! I’m traveling to Sri Lanka in a few weeks after being in India and I’m worried that my drone will be taken and/or held at the airport. Did you put it in your checked bag or your carry-on? I have the Mavic Air and was planning on taking the props off and just hoping it blends in with the rest of my camera gear in my carry on backpack. Any other tips you can suggest? Sounds like it’s really risky to fly it there, let alone bringing it in.

    • Kanishka Algewatta | 10.05.2018

      Today I bought my phantom 4 pro + to sri Lanka, without a single problem, I don’t know what you all talk about, and of course I will get a permit to fly it and will let the aviation department know where I will be flying, to do it professionally,coz even in Australia ,i uses to let them know where I will be, coz I have a ARN, its easy to communicate and fly every where, so I think you all had some bad luck or you probably done some stupid stuff to made that happend to you????

    • kamiiyu | 28.05.2018

      it looks like my mavic pro has officially no luck to enter this country. unless “NOTHING TO DECLARE”.
      According to the Weight, Mavic Pro is 734g without gimbal shield, should be classified as CAT, C Drone. But a Drone with capturing ability looks like not welcome in this country.

      Mass Category of Pilotless aircraft
      25 kg or above A
      Above 1 kg but below 25 kg B
      Above 200 g but at or below 1 kg C
      200 g or below D

      “CATEGORY – C
      A pilotless aircraft of Ca t e go r y C, which has no capability for data capturing tools such
      as camera, body-sensing or self-priming devices which has a potential of posing a safety or
      security threat to a person or property or infringing privacy of a third person and which has
      no means of carrying foreign objects other than the apparatus needed for its operations may
      be operated with the Registration of a Vender who is certified for the purpose by the
      Director General of Civil Aviation, subject to compliance with guidelines to be provided by
      such vender. “

    • Xavier | 25.07.2018

      Well, before landing in Sri Lanka, I’ll be traveling India and Kashmir, and it seems even worse than Sri Lanka…so I’ll leave my Mavic air home…..too bad…..really bad.

    • Mike | 30.07.2018

      How about shipping it to the hotel, will that work

    • Les | 19.09.2018

      Hey Guys . Any updates on Drones laws in Sri Lanka. I have a Spark i am trying to travel with.

    • Alexander Forrest | 21.09.2018

      I brought my drone into the country and have registered it, yet the actual flight clearance process takes a long time and is a tedious process. I will not risk flying it without the proper clearance.

    • Mani | 22.10.2018

      Serious these lawyers are not tourist friendly. Sri Lankan Government should change laws if they want to make it tourist hub in Asia.

    • Ali Bokhari | 29.10.2018

      I can’t seem to register my drone. when i create my profile it requires a NIC# which i don’t have… also it’s as im Canadian our postal code has letters and numbers and the website wont allow Letters Anyone else had these issues?

      • Vitalii | 05.01.2019

        There is the note under NIC* field:
        (Not mandatory if you are not a Sri Lankan citizen. Provide passport number instead)

    • Jens | 10.12.2018

      Hi,
      I will fly to Sri Lanka in a week. I had planned to take my Mavic Air on the journey around Sri Lanka on my month stay.
      I have made everything to prepare for the trip, registered myself and the Drone through the CAA website. Both me and the Drone approved so I was quite happy so far.
      Now for the next step in the bureaucracy to apply for “Drone operation” I started to dig deeper, I now understand I need to get some document of approval/Clearance from “Ministry of Defence(MOD)/Office of the Chief of Defence Staff(OCDS)” which seems to be a very difficult process.
      Then I need to apply for each individual flight?
      This seems like it will be a showstopper for me and I will most likely leave the drone home, which is a shame as my intentional footage would have given Sri Lanka a promotional value for the tourism industry.

      Or has anyone else any updated information about the regulations, and perhaps a more open view towards recreational drone usage in Sri Lanka?
      BR, Jens

      • Chris | 08.01.2019

        Hey Jens,

        I just got back from 2 weeks in Sri Lanka, like you I got stuck at the final step, I sent off the documentation to fly at each site 6 times and never got anyreplys so I just gave up and went flying.

        20 flights over 2 weeks and no one stoped me or told me to land, no problems at all flying.

    • Chris | 13.12.2018

      I have just gone through the process of registering myself and my MAVIC 2 both approved, now waiting on clearance for each province BUT does anyone have this

      “Security clearance letter obtained from OCDS”

      I cant find it anywhere.

      Cheers
      Chris

      Cant find it anywhere

    • CHAO | 10.04.2019

      Went to Sri Lanka in Feb 2018. Entering Sri Lanka with drone is no prob, flying drone in less populated areas in Sri Lanka is no prob. Flew at least 8 times in Sri Lanka.

      In Pinnawala, where there is a sign says No Drone. I apply to the park officer and paid. The second day I got a permit, talked to the on site polices and flew there for 20 minutes.

      And in National Parks, religious monutes, no flying over or piloting drones there where people can see you. If you wanna do it, do it as far away from the crowd. I tried to flew into the National Parks from outside of the park off road in a no-man’s small dirt road where no one could see me from anywhere.

      • JLO | 07.06.2019

        Thanks for the info CHAO, did you just apply to the park officer on site?

    • Cesar | 04.06.2019

      Hello there! I’m going there this summer, for 45 days… I want to carry my Parrot Anafi with me, but I’m getting quite discouraged…

      Register the drone doesn’t seem to be a problem to me, but getting the permission to fly on each spot, as far as I don’t even have plans about where will we be each day, seem very difficult to me. Maybe those of you who are professionals and have a flight plan or something could be easier…

      Also I’ve read that you have to pay for a month permission about 100$ and more than twice for a longer one, any of you know this?

      Also I’ve just read a letter from the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka (https://www.caa.lk/images/stories/pdf/implementing_standards/sn053.pdf) where also talks about having insurance:

      “29. INSURANCE COVER
      No pilotless aircraft of mass Category A, B or C shall be operated without a valid Insurance Cover at least in respect of 3rd party injury and/or damage.”

      All mavics, anafis and similar are in category C, so this is another big problem for me, because as far as I’ve seen, an insurance for my dron could cost anode 150$???

      I really don’t know what to do, maybe I can register it in order not to be worried while carrying it into the country and ask for permission in each spot or park as Chao said, but I don’t wanna carry that extra luggage for nothing…

      • Jens | 28.06.2019

        Hi,
        No worries. I was scared of firs as well, I even contacted Military of defence, they did not bother to answer.
        I completed registration at website of myself and the drone, so I ate least had permission, or can prove that I could bring it in my bags, I mean you can bring even if you don’t fly it. However when in the country there are no problem flying the drone, I just used some common sense, not in crowded areas.
        We had a private guide for a week and he said its no problem at all.
        Unfortunately I dropped my drone in a hand catch and damaged the IMU so I could not use it as much as I would have.
        But don’t worry, just register the drone, and fly with common sense.
        Here’s some of the footage i gathered:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4d-2hhj97E

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