RULES OF THE DRONE ZONE
Nothing elevates your holiday snaps – literally and figuratively – quite like using a drone. From taking photos of the whole island on which you stayed to capturing waves crashing from above, or even snapping a “dronie”, these increasingly sophisticated flying machines can record stunning photographs you would otherwise miss. But taking your drone overseas with you is more complicated than merely leaving space for it in a backpack.
Each country has its own laws for taking footage from above, and you might get a rude shock at the airport or when you land if you haven’t researched how to correctly pack or declare your aerial gadget.
In Fiji, for example, arriving passengers have all their bags scanned for drones before leaving the airport. Potential pilots are asked to fill in registration forms.
So what do you need to know before you fly?
The biggest concern about drones for airlines is their batteries. Drones use high-density lithium polymer batteries, which must be carried in your hand luggage rather than checked into the plane’s hold.
Batteries with more than 160 watt hours cannot fly with you, and any batteries more powerful than 100Wh can be restricted (Qantas will only let you carry two, for example).
As a guide, batteries for DJI’s latest Mavic 2 drones are rated at 59Wh and are safe to pack in your carry-on bag.
Some airlines also require passengers to place tape on the metal terminals of spare batteries, and carry them in separate plastic bags or insulated pouches. When you arrive at your destination, however, following the rules can become much more challenging.
In Australia, drone laws allow recreational flyers to capture photographs from up to 120m in the air as long as they are 30m away from people, in daylight, within sight of the pilot, and 5.5km away from airports.
However, these rules vary overseas. In Fiji, Singapore and Taiwan, drones are only allowed to fly up to 60m in the air. In Italy, drones must remain under the 70m mark, in Canada the height restriction is 90m, and German drones can only ascend to 100m to take photographs.
Some countries even require drone pilots register their flying machines, and failing to do so could end in a fine. In Peru, for example, you must declare your drone at customs and pay a refundable tax based on the value of your device.
In the United States, drone flyers must register with the Federal Aviation Authority, and tourists in Egypt must obtain permission from the country’s Civil Aviation Authority before taking to the skies.
In addition, there are 15 countries where flying a drone is banned outright, including Morocco, Barbados, Cuba and Madagascar, so it’s always a good idea to make sure you read up on the rules of your destination before packing. A COMPREHENSIVE LIST CAN BE FOUND AT UAVCOACH.COM/DRONE-LAWS
A drone captures the full beauty of El Nido Palawan in the Philippines. AERIAL SNAP PICTURE: ISTOCK