Drones have evolved from a niche hobby for geeks to become mainstream, all in the space of a few years. And with each passing year they become more popular as their capabilities continue to evolve and they are incorporated across several industries.
Regulators have not failed to notice the trend.
Drone laws continue to evolve along with drones in order to keep the pedestrian public, other aircrafts, and even drone pilots, safe.
But while this constant evolution is a good thing for all parties involved, it does make it difficult to stay current on what is legal and what is not. Hence the need for this guide.
Are Drones Illegal?
That depends on where you are, and what you are doing. For example, if you are in the US, drone regulations would designate your drone as illegal if you ever attached dangerous weapons to it, and breaking this rule could come with a fine of up to $25,000.
As a pilot it is your responsibility to make sure that you do not fly afoul of the law by keeping abreast of the regulations in place in your locality.
Before you take to the skies, ask the local aviation authorities about what you should keep in mind. You don’t want to risk incurring big fines.
Whether you intend flying your drone for educational, recreational, or commercial purposes, the drone laws apply to everybody.
Drone regulations change from location to location.
We have specific guides that cover:
You’ll certainly find it interesting to see how the laws differ from country to country. If you’re looking for laws regarding different countries, that’s something you’ll have to research locally.
Countries Where Drones Are Banned (or Have Strict Drone Laws)
The use of drones is growing, and there are already over 7 million registered drones operating worldwide. But there are still a few places that are yet to catch up.
Drone laws in some countries ban the flying of drones outright, or make it so difficult to get permission to fly that drones could still be considered banned anyway.
You may be wondering why anybody would clip their citizen’s wings by banning drones.
Usually, it is a case of national authorities not knowing what to do about drones and therefore banning their use until appropriate legislation can be passed.
Other times, the governments of these countries simply want to stifle the spread of information by limiting their citizen’s access to it.
At the time of writing this article, there are 16 countries where laws prohibit you from flying drones. You need to be careful if you’re visiting to these countries and aim to take some drone travel photos and videos:
You cannot fly a drone recreationally or commercially in Algeria without a special permit. And if you do manage to do the herculean task of surmounting the legal obstacles to get a permit, you can only fly your drone in the day time.
The government of Barbados is working on a legislative framework to serve as drone regulations, and has been doing so since 2015. Until that initiative is completed, the importation and licensing of remotely piloted aircrafts is effectively banned.
However, according to their Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, the government is willing to grant temporary exemptions on a case-by-case basis for drones that are imported and exported immediately after use.
Drones were previously banned outright in Ivory Coast and were only permitted for military use. But now you can get your drone licensed and obtain a permit—albeit the process is so complicated they may as well have maintained the ban.
For example, you better have your drone registered before you bring it into an Ivorian airport as a foreigner. It may be confiscated otherwise. You can only get a permit as an Ivorian citizen, resident, corporation, or institution. Foreigners need the back up of these in order to register.
Once you are able to fly, among myriad other requirements, you also need the permission of the private land owner or the manager of the public space you intend to take off from and land to (If they are different), and also the permission of the nearest civil aviation authority.
Presently, foreigners cannot import drones into Cuba. Anyone who attempts to do so will have their drone confiscated. But you can recover your drone and take back with you when you leave, if you pay a hefty fine.
That said, the use of drones is allowed in Cuba. While you are there you can rent one or buy one in the country.
However, before you can fly your drone, you need to take 5 separate authorizations from various bodies like Cuba’s Civil Aviation Authority, the armed forces, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Science, the Historian’s Office in the city you plan to fly in, and also the local government in every area you plan to fly in.
Authorization could take as long as 30 days to come through from any of these departments.
In 2017, Egypt passed a law that prohibited the import, manufacture, collecting, sale, possession or use of drones unless a permit is obtained from the Ministry of Defense.
This ban is binding on all, from individuals all the way up to government ministries. However, you can obtain special permission from to use a drone locally. But permits are rarely given.
Being caught in contravention of this ban could result in jail time of 1 to 7 years and a hefty fine.
While the public awaits Kenyan parliament to approve a framework of drone laws, drones remain effectively banned in Kenya. Hundreds of drones have been seized at the Jomo Kenyatta airport because they were imported during this period of waiting.
However, if you happen to be represent a media organ or a film production company, you may be able to get permission to fly your drone. You would have to reach out to the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority and the Kenya Department of Defense, separately.
Private individuals are not allowed to import or fly drones in Kenya for now.
Drones laws in Kuwait do not differentiate between recreational drones and commercial drones, and both are effectively banned for security reasons.
You can fly drones in Kuwait if you can manage to get permission from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. And if you do get permission, you are prohibited from flying them over private properties. Offenders could face up to 3 years jail time or a $9,800 fine.
Importing a drone into Kuwait without permission is forbidden. Kuwait City Airport is notorious for their bag checks as they try to enforce injunctions like this. Authorities may confiscate your drone should they discover it in your luggage.
For more information on the nitty-gritties of Kuwait’s drone laws, you can reach to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation through this online form.
Officially, drones are allowed in Iran. But, because of the many unpleasant stories reported by drone pilots in the country, one would not be advised to try flying in the country—not without explicit permission, at least.
Flying privately owned drones is also banned in Tehran for security reasons.
There have been cases where people have been arrested by Iranian authorities on suspicion of being spies because they use GPS-enabled devices like drones. Whether or not you have a permit, inform yourself of the security situation before taking to the skies.
Drone laws in Iran do not differentiate between recreational and commercial drone use. Drone use is supervised by the Iraq Civil Aviation Authority, and laws are strict enough to be considered veiled bans.
Do not travel to Iraq with your drone except you have obtained permission to do so. Should you happen to have a drone when you arrive, do well to declare it. Airports like Baghdad International Airport are notorious for their bag checks and two things are likely to happen if you do not declare your drone while there:
- It will be confiscated and, in the best scenario, will be stored at the airport where you may you be able to retrieve it should you depart from the same airport.
- You succeed in sneaking your drone in, but you get discovered upon departure (from Baghdad Airport) and not only will your drone confiscated, you will also face heavier sanctions for smuggling a drone into the country.
The use of drones outdoors is strictly forbidden in Madagascar, except if you have obtained a permit from the Civilian Aviation Directorate of Madagascar—and that is only for commercial use. You cannot get a permit for flying your drone recreationally outdoors, but you can get a permit to fly it indoors.
Permits issued will tell you when and where you can fly your drone. The authorities at the Civilian Aviation Directorate decide these details on a case by case basis.
Importing a drone into Madagascar is prohibited unless you have a permit for it.
The import of drones is completely forbidden in Morocco. You can expect your drone to be confiscated if you are found with one while in the country. Companies may use drones with a permit, but getting one is extremely rare. Individuals do not get issued permits.
In addition to having your drone confiscated, if you are seen with a drone in Morocco you risk paying a fine of about 110 Euros.
If you do have a drone with you when you are entering the country, you can declare it and have it taken from you upon entry so that you can leave with it when you exit.
Permits are tendered by the Moroccan Directorate Of Civil Aeronautics (DCA) and you contact for more information through their contact form.
Nicaragua has zero tolerance for drones. Both recreational drones and commercial drones are strictly forbidden under RESOLUCION No. 34-2014. Any drone you try to bring in will be confiscated at the point of entry if found.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has one of the most stringent drone regulations in the Arab world. Up until very recently, privately-owned drones were banned outright in the country.
That said, in January 2019, the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) began receiving applications for permits from commercial drone operators and recreational pilots.
Applications can be gotten submitted through the website: https://eaviation.gaca.gov.sa/uas/
Drones remain heavily regulated and you need a permit from GACA before you can import one into the country.
In response to terrorist attacks that occurred in April 2019, the government of Sri Lanka has banned all drones until further notice.
All previously granted permits are no longer valid and will remain so until the ban is lifted.
Previously, the rules were rather stringent, but you could apply for a permit to fly your drone after registering it with the Civil Aviation Authority.
Drones are currently banned in Syria, according to the Syrian Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA). With a full scale war involving the active use of weaponized drones, it is not hard to imagine why.
Since 2015, the import, sale, and flying of drones has been banned outright. Going against this ban could result in jail time spanning up to 3 years.
Are Drone Laws Becoming Stricter?
Are regulations lagging behind the pace at which drones are evolving, thus resulting in overly strict laws? Some reports believe so.
But this is the natural consequence of the rapid way in which drone technology and innovation is evolving. Regulators are choosing to take a conservative approach to make sure no lives are endangered by these flying devices.
But hopefully, lawmakers will catch up in time to avoid becoming stumbling blocks to the wonderful new world which drones are opening up for hobbyists and commercial operators in different industries.