Counter drone laws – travelling with drones

Most people seeking information about drone security, drone jamming and counter drone technology. Few think about how different the approach to drones are in different countries. Drones are used for security too. Every hear the term fighting fire with fire? Drones are used by the police, the military and private security contractors, to provide security. There is nothing quite as useful as a drone to catch an illegal drone user in a counter drone operation.

Travelling with drones

When travelling, unless they are well informed drone enthusiasts risk losing their drones even before they board the plane. Equally there is the risk of losing the drone once disembarking and making their way through customs. Those that are fortunate enough to be allowed to take a drone across foreign lines, may well lose their drone because of ignorance of local laws. Unless a drone operator is fully au fait with the drone laws in the country they are entering, it is probably better not to take one with them.

The diversity of regulations in different jurisdictions is mind boggling. Counter drone regulations in one country may differ so greatly between a country and its neighbour that when travelling serious complications may arise. A drone that may be considered a toy in in one country could be considered a commercial drone by its neighbours. Simple differences such as weight categories and wing spans can create conflict and confusion at border crossings. Each jurisdiction will have developed counter drone legislation to meet with its own needs and public experience. Additionally, because laws are changed with increasing frequency the regulations that applied in a previous visit to a country, may not apply today.

Outright bans

Countries such as Nicaragua ban quad copters outright. Travellers have mentioned that theirs have been confiscated at the airport and returned to them on departure from the country. Countries like South Africa require drone operators to have a licence which requires a test pass in both theory and practical examinations. Furthermore, heavier drones also require the operator to pass a medical capacity test.

Try to enter Egypt with a drone and expect to face arrest and an unsympathetic legal system. Botswana bans them too. Ironically their neighbouring Namibia is quite relaxed about drones. The only exception is in the game parks and reserves where they are strictly forbidden.

Countries like Turkey and India have ever changing regulations, that mean it requires a lot of expertise to take a drone across their borders.

Counter drone regulations in aviation

Counter drone regulations are not only to the countries that are being entered either. FAA and CAA regulations are very strict about the carriage of batteries. a drone should be carried in a hard shell case if the owner really wants to minimise damage.  As a fragile item it should be taken on board. The size of the case will determine whether the airline will permit this to happen.

Batteries are another area of concern. It is not permitted to board a passenger plane with more than two lithium ion batteries with a capacity over 100 watt hours. There is no restriction on lithium ion batteries below this capacity. Although this is standard policy, there will always be an exception to the rule, so it is imperative that the airline is contacted before travel.

You will also discover that you must carry the batteries on your person. Check them in and you can be sure your luggage will be rejected once it goes through the x ray process.

The US requires that a drone is registered before it can be flown. There is an online registration process on the FAA website. Unfortunately, this registration can only take place from within the US. If all the safety regulations are met, drones can be brought into the US. They simply cannot be flown until the registration process has been completed.

What about toys?

In most countries, except for where drones are banned outright, the regulations define a toy drone clearly. These regulations will usually define the wingspan, weight and camera capacity. Adding to the confusion,  definitions will differ from country to country. This will make counter drone laws even more difficult to work your way through.

Until there has been sufficient international consensus on drones and how they affect security, the confusion will continue. There is only one way to be sure what the rules are and that is to ask. Ask the relevant authority. It is probable that a clerk in an embassy is not going to be able to tell anyone.

What has become clear is that counter drone activity has increased substantially over recent years. The risks associated with a lack of regulation have been the core contribution to this. In fact, there are businesses that now take portable drone jammers with them when travelling abroad. These are counter drone strategies to protect intellectual property when negotiating business deals. Seems like the drone has come full circle.