Drone regulations in Thailand (2020)
If you want to fly a drone in Thailand, you will have to take some hurdles. In this article, I explain to you the conditions you have to fulfill.
In recent years, the rules for drone pilots in Thailand have changed quite often. This creates a lot of confusion and not all the information you can find on the internet is up to date. I am trying to give you a current and complete overview of the legal situation in the Kingdom.
First of all, if you are caught drone-flying without the necessary permits, you face high fines and even imprisonment. Thai prisons are not fun!
For most camera drones, you need two registrations: First, from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), which handles the frequencies used by the drone. Second, by the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT), which registers all drone pilots.
So far it is not possible to complete the registrations before going to Thailand. This means you will need some luck to get your documents in time. In the following I explain to you how the procedures at NBTC and CAAT work.
Overview: Drone rules in Thailand
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Registration of drones in Thailand
In total, you need three documents to fly legally in Thailand: drone insurance, NBTC registration and CAAT registration. You should have these documents with you during all drone flights.
The insurance confirmation should be in English and contain the following data:
- full name of the policyholder
- brand, model, serial number and weight of the insured drone(s)
- validity in Thailand must be clear
- insurance coverage of at least THB 1 million (approx. EUR 30,000)
Register with the NBTC
Registration can be done easily at one of the NBTC offices and may only take 10-15 minutes. You have to appear there personally but don’t need an appointment. The approval granted is valid for the same duration as your visa, but our readers have pointed out that, even for permanent residents, the approval is only valid for up to 90 days. Whenever you re-enter the country, you will need a new permit from the NBTC.
You can prepare the following documents for your visit to the NBTC:
- signed copy of your passport and entry stamp
- proof of address in Thailand (e.g. booking confirmation from the hotel)
- photos of the drone, the controller and the respective serial numbers
Once there, you will receive forms to fill out, which are also available online. As far as we know, it’s this document, but you should make sure that it is still up to date. In any case, you can use it to prepare the technical data for your drone. You don’t have to take the drone to the NBTC!
If you fail to register with the NBTC and are caught by the police, you could face up to five years in prison or a fine of 100,000 THB (approx. 3,000 euros).
Register with the CAAT
You have to register your drone with the CAAT if it has a camera/recording equipment or – if it does not have recording equipment – weighs more than 2 kg.
You can only register with the CAAT once you have the approval of the NBTC. Since summer 2018, registration has been possible via the online platform uav.caat.or.th.
The relevant fields have been translated into English so that you should be able to fill out the forms quite easily. You will have to provide a lot of personal information during the process. In addition, you have to upload a signed self-declaration, a picture of the drone with the serial number on it and proof of your drone insurance. In addition, the CAAT requires a copy of your passport with the entry stamp. Several of our readers received rejections due to the lack of proof of entry. This means that you can only register once you have already entered the country.
After you have submitted the complete documents, the CAAT will check your application and carry out a background check with several security authorities to ensure that you have not yet committed any legal violations in Thailand. Since this can be very time-consuming, you have to expect a long processing time. The CAAT writes on its website that you will receive a notification within 15 working days. In practice, it can be shorter, but it can also take much longer. The good news is that if your registration was successful, it is valid for two years.
If you are caught flying without CAAT registration, you face up to 1 year imprisonment and / or 40,000 THB penalty (approx. 1,200 euros).
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 am only visiting Thailand in transit and do not want to start my drone in the country. Can I get in trouble if I have no registration?
There should be no problems. Customs are not interested in drones, and the registrations are only required for the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles. However, there may be issues if the authorities 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 register. What can I do now?
You should take out drone liability insurance and collect the above documents. At the moment you can only register if you are already in Thailand. But keep in mind that processing your application can take weeks and you may not receive your permits in time if you are in the country for only a short vacation.
How long does it take to register with the CAAT?
This varies and also seems to depend on the number of current applications. You can avoid a very long processing time by submitting all documents on time. Please keep in mind that processing at CAAT will only begin once you have approval from the NBTC.
Further regulations for operating multicopters in Thailand
After you have successfully registered yourself and your drone, there are of course other rules to follow
If you want to fly privately and no camera is mounted on your drone, the maximum take-off weight is 2 kg. With a higher weight you need approval from the CAAT. Drones weighing 25 kilograms or more need a separate permit from the Ministry of Transport.
Commercial pilots need permission for their flight maneuvers.
Safety distances and flight bans
You have to keep a distance of 9 kilometers (= 5 miles) to airports.
You can’t get closer than 50 meters to people, vehicles and buildings.
You must not fly near crowds of people. Flying over cities and villages is not allowed. Also avoid government buildings and hospitals.
You must always obtain permission from the property owner to take off and land. In practice, we usually solve this by asking the guards for permission or by asking at the information desk.
Your drone must always be kept within visual line of sight.
Drone flights are only allowed in daylight in Thailand, i.e. between sunrise and sunset.
The Thai rules also stipulate that you have an emergency plan. This includes having to carry a fire extinguisher with you. We have not yet found out whether this rule is enforced.
Good to know: Flights in Chiang Mai must be generally approved by 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 people in the tower can coordinate with their bosses. Also, for flights over the historic park of Ayutthaya, approval 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!