Drones, or more precisely, quadcopters, have long gained popularity among both enthusiasts and professional videographers. Naturally, Bali is no exception, and they are widely available on the island. However, owning and operating a drone comes with a certain level of responsibility, and Indonesian legislation kindly outlines the rules for their import and usage. Let's start with the regulations regarding the import of quadcopters.
The import of a quadcopter
Indeed, the rules are simple – you can import drones in the quantity of one device per person. If you are bringing several, questions may arise about why you need so many drones. It's better to prepare answers in advance.
When importing a quadcopter, it's much more crucial to comply with the rules of the airline. Also, follow the rules of the countries where you will make transit stops. Drones might be completely prohibited there, and in certain situations, they may be confiscated. Places with peculiar attitudes towards these devices include, for example, India or Dubai, where drone flights are temporarily prohibited.
One common rule for airlines is that batteries must be in carry-on luggage, not in checked baggage. This is a fire safety requirement, as the battery can ignite due to pressure and temperature fluctuations, and a burning cargo hold is the last thing you'd want to see in flight. This applies to lithium-ion polymer batteries, but airport staff is unlikely to delve into such nuances. It's also important to know the watt-hours of the battery. For capacities exceeding 100 Wh, special permission from the airline may be required. You shouldn't carry more than two high-capacity batteries; this can also cause issues. However, large batteries are a rarity – even the DJI Inspire 2 uses batteries of only 98 Wh, so most drone enthusiasts shouldn't encounter difficulties with this.
It wouldn't hurt to wrap the batteries, for example, in plastic wrap, to prevent a short circuit if their terminals come into contact. The drone itself is usually allowed in checked baggage in the cargo hold. But there can be nuances here as well. For example, according to one participant in the BaliForum photographers' chat, at Doha Airport, officials wanted to confiscate his drone by all means, but in the end, they demanded to transfer it to carry-on luggage, leaving the batteries in checked baggage.
In general, it is recommended to learn the rules of a specific airline and the regulations for importing drones and their batteries in all countries of travel. You can even print them out to show to airline or airport staff in case of any problems. Not everyone memorizes these rules by heart, and a bewildered customs officer may be tempted to solve the problem by confiscating your beloved drone.
Rules for the use of drones in Indonesia
I'll start by saying that at the moment, the relevant authorities (Directorate General of Civil Aviation and Ministry of Transportation Republic of Indonesia) are not particularly enthusiastic about monitoring compliance with drone flight rules.
However, this does not mean that you won't be detained and penalized for violating them at some point. Let's go through what is allowed and not allowed with a drone in Indonesia according to the law.
1. Flights in the country are allowed at a maximum altitude of 150 meters. If you want to fly higher, you need to obtain permission two weeks in advance.
2. Flights must be conducted within the direct line of sight of the pilot. Yes, in the case of FPV (First Person View), adhering to this rule may cause some difficulties.
3. Currently, there is no need to purchase insurance for a drone.
4. The maximum takeoff weight of the drone should not exceed seven kilograms.
5. Flights must only take place in unregulated airspace. The distance from the nearest airport should be at least 15 kilometers. This also applies to helicopter pads, for example, near Melasti Beach.
6. It is prohibited to fly near crowds of people and in densely populated areas.
7. Cloud clearance during flights should be at least 150 meters vertically from the ground, and horizontal visibility should not be less than 600 meters.
8. Drones with cameras, yes, they exist. They must be kept at a minimum distance of 500 meters from restricted and prohibited flight zones.
9. Flying is prohibited during nighttime and in inclement weather. Visibility should be at least 4.8 kilometers.
10. It is not allowed to operate a drone from moving transport, excluding sea vessels and boats.
In addition to airports, there are other restricted zones. Typically, these are marked with signs featuring either a crossed-out drone or a written notice in English stating that drones are not allowed. In such places, security guards usually monitor compliance with the ban. If you attempt to take off, they will find you, stop the flight, and may suggest a resolution that ensures you won't attempt to take off again. For example, when visiting a botanical garden where flights are prohibited, a drone pilot was strongly urged to leave the device with the guard until their tour of the botanical garden was complete.
Legislation differentiates between flight rules for commercial drone pilots and those who fly or shoot footage for personal use.
For recreational flights
To the rules listed above, the following are added:
- The drone must weigh less than two kilograms.
- You must be over 18 years old.
- Flying under the influence of alcohol or substances is prohibited.
- The maximum speed should not exceed 161 km/h.
- If you want to fly faster, farther, or higher than the rules allow, you need to obtain permission from the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), which takes two weeks to process.
For commercial flights
Adherence to all the rules mentioned above, plus insurance and permission from the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) are required.
What are the possible penalties for violating the rules?
The maximum penalty is five million rupiahs and up to three years in prison. Of course, the court will assess the severity of your offense. It is unlikely that you will be sentenced to three years for flying in a botanical garden. The punishment will also depend on whether you intentionally violated the rules and whether there was a commercial aspect to your offense.