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Drones: What's Legal? What's Not? Where Can You Fly Them? Everything You Need to Know

Drones: What's Legal? What's Not? Where Can You Fly Them? Everything You Need to Know

The popularity of drones is soaring as the idea of creating unique images and original content continues to attract photographers and videographers. But drones are also causing a lot of problems for users, sometimes landing them in prison. Here's what you need to know.

In December, 2018, hundreds of flights were delayed or canceled and London's Gatwick airport temporarily closed for 30 hours as a result of a drone flying in the vicinity. And just recently, two Australian travelers were jailed in Iran (where they still remain) for flying a drone just outside Tehran without a permit. What this indicates is that while drones might offer users the potential for mesmerizing views of a location unseen before, they can also put you into a whole world of trouble, especially with law enforcement agencies in different countries. So what should people know about drones and how are laws regarding drones implemented and enforced in different parts of the world?

In this comprehensive report in the Sydney Morning Herald, most of your questions about drones and the laws surrounding them are answered. It includes examples of drone laws in places such as Myanmar, Egypt, Cambodia, and Morocco, as well as Australia. Some of the laws in Australia (which are likely similar in the US or other countries) might surprise you somewhat. For me, the law that states "You must not fly your drone in populous areas such as beaches, parks, roads, footpaths, or festivals and other crowded events" is curious considering most of my favorite drone images are above surfers and beaches across Sydney and Australia. Does this mean that the drone users were flouting the law, or that the law is not enforced in some circumstances? Because dozens of my favorite surf photographers have aerial shots of well-known beach locations.

Give the article a read and let me know your thoughts. I've considered getting a drone recently but perhaps they're more trouble than they're worth? I look forward to your comments.

Images courtesy of Pixabay user Alexander Lesnitsky

Iain Stanley's picture

Iain Stanley is an Associate Professor teaching photography and composition in Japan. Fstoppers is where he writes about photography, but he's also a 5x Top Writer on Medium, where he writes about his expat (mis)adventures in Japan and other things not related to photography. To view his writing, click the link above.

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I would not put an expensive camera lens on a drone.
Now seeing a lot of no drones allowed signs in national parks.
They deliver to houses now
Just wait till a large aircraft hits one.
There will always bevover enthusiastic photographers that will use them where they should not.

Here's my exciting drone disappointment video of buying a drone if you need more perspective..

Those two Australians in Iran were released a couple of days ago, btw.

Good to hear. Two months in an Iranian prison for flying a drone, though....

As I heard it, the dopey people were flying one near a military base.

Hmm.. There is no conclusive evidence that the Drone Incident at Gatwick ever actually happened.. There is no photographic or video evidence to show the drone..2 people were arrested, but releases with no charges filed against them.. There is a lot of negativity towards drones.. And as a licensed responsible drone pilot.. It is troubling to me to hear these stories with no conclusive evidence that they actually happened..

All those beach shots the author refers to were probably shot illegally, if in Australia. You cannot fly within 30m of people both vertically and laterally. Overhead shots are a big no-no unless you have a special dispensation from CASA. For that you will need at least an Inspire or above because you'll rarely, if ever, get permission for a quadcopter with just one battery. The drone must have at least two batteries and/or six motors for redundancy.

I guess people/photographers take their chances that law enforcement people aren’t in the vicinity. It would be interesting if an image without the relevant permissions won some kind of prestigious photo contest and then its legality was challenged.....

And now the cursed things a delivering cups of coffee around our houses for chrissake.
I've no inherent objection to drones but who wants to be buzzed by another piece of technology. Already our streets are swarming with phone zombies.
Do I sound like a grumpy? Oops.