Flying a drone in Myanmar.
If you’re planning on visiting Bagan and you have a drone, your hands will be itching to fly at this incredible city with its countless temples, pagodas and stupas. I visited Myanmar 3 times in 2018 and 2019, did a lot of research on Myanmar and their drone laws about flying a drone in Myanmar. I spoke with many local people during my trips, to find out what’s really going on and what actually happens when someone gets caught…
Flying a drone in Myanmar: Drone laws as of 2020
In short: up until 2015 all drones were confiscated at the airport. The old drone laws are no longer, but no new drone laws have been written down. What’s very clear though, is that flying a drone is only permitted if you obtain a permit before entering the country, and that you register your drone at the airport.
Most of the time bags aren’t checked for drones anymore, so it’s easy to get it into the country. But that doesn’t mean you should without knowing the consequences. It is now possible to leave your drone at the airport and pick it up when you leave. This is the safest thing to do if you’re traveling with your drone. In some cases people do get caught with their drone and in some cases they are still confiscated at the airport.
If you get caught with drone while traveling and you don’t have all the registered paperwork, you could be facing jailtime with hard labour. Even if you have all paperwork and you (accidentally) fly near a military zone, you’re screwed. To have an unregistered drone can land you in there for 2-3 years. But since there are no written laws, the government can do whatever they want and everything remains very unclear.
In all honesty, Myanmar is one of the worst countries in the world to fly your drone without a permit. Even though many get away with it, I don’t think for anyone landing in jail is worth it for some drone shots. Try to get the permit if you can.
Getting a permit
Note that it will take 4 weeks minimum. I have tried contacting them several times. There’s a chatbox available, but no one will answer it anytime soon. Just type in your email address and your questions and they’ll get back to you.
There aren’t any clear laws in Myanmar as to how they deal with it, if you don’t have either of the two, but you clearly end up in jail. To have an unregistered drone on you (even if you have a permit and you’re not flying it) can land you in jail for 2-3 years doing hard labor.
Flying close to any military installation will get you in serious trouble, no matter if you have a paperwork. There are/were two tourists in jail for doing so.
A big problem with ending in a Burmese jail, is that there’s almost nothing anyone can do for you, not even your own government. Since there are no clear laws no one even knows what the penalty will end up being.
Bagan tourist police
The tourist police at Bagan is a different kind of police. They worry mainly about keeping everyone safe and following the rules. After talking to many locals about drones, it became clear the tourist police is not interested in arresting people and scaring off tourists. I can’t vouch for it, but from what I hear these police officers will only ask you to stop flying and no longer do it. That means flying your drone is safer at Bagan than anywhere else in the country.
Doing it anyway
If you decide to take the risk and fly your drone in Myanmar, you’re wise to attract as little attention as possible. Find a quiet place where no one notices you. Make sure you’re not near any police or a military installation.
Buying a drone in Myanmar
It is possible these days to buy a drone in Myanmar. I think you’ll only find them in Yangon, probably more expensive than anywhere else. Buying a drone there doesn’t solve any problems, because you’ll still have an unregistered drone and no permit.