Drone Camera Rules of Bhutan – But Can You Operate Them?

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Last updated on April 3rd, 2019

The other day, I received an email from one of the readers Mr. Lewis asking if I could share about Drone camera rules of Bhutan. He wants to know if tourists are allowed to operate drones in Bhutan. His aim is to do drone aerial photography and video shootings in Bhutan.

Our conversations on Drone camera rules of Bhutan ended when he suggested writing a separate article on it. So I did a research on Drone camera rules of Bhutan. I gathered more information on this from concerned agencies of Bhutan and came up with this article.

Drone law and regulations of Bhutan

Lungtenzampa Bridge from a Drone. Courtesy: Facebook.

Which means this article is for Mr. Lewis so much it’s for tourists who have plans to travel Bhutan with drones. I am hopeful that it’ll help people who want do aerial photography and video shootings within Bhutan using Drones – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

Drone camera operations banned in Bhutan?

Department of Civil Aviation has passed a circular in March 2015 on this. But it restricted operating Drone cameras in Bhutan. Despite this restriction, people illegally used Drone cameras and came up with aerial photos and drone videos of Bhutan shot using them.

So then this Department felt that it would be better to allow operating Drone cameras in Bhutan but with a set of rules and regulations. In April 2016, they issued another Drone regulations which then lifted the ban of using Drone cameras in Bhutan.

Drone camera rules of Bhutan

This also seems to have shot in unregistered Drone.

However, it came with a list of mandates which owners/operators of Drone cameras in Bhutan must follow. There is no separate Act or Law on Drones in Bhutan. For now these mandates actually define Drone camera rules of Bhutan.

  • Applications to BCAA  with clearance certificates from MoHCA and BICMA.
  • Give technical specifications of Drone and pilot experiences to BCAA.
  • Submit evidences to prove you’ve experiences and competencies.
  • Not permitted to fly exceeding height of 300ft (90m) above ground.
  • Prohibited to fly your Drone camera beyond visual line of sight.
  • Prohibited to operate in areas within 5km of airports and air routes.
  • Not allowed to operate during nights and when weather isn’t clear.
  • Drone Camera shouldn’t weigh more than 6 kilos.
  • Not allowed to fly above VVIP residences, temples and large crowds.
  • Responsible for safe operation and separation from other such cameras.
  • Responsible for safety, privacy and security of other parties.
  • Indemnify BCAA on legal issues if it’s due to Drone’s technical failures.

Drone Camera Rules of Bhutan for Tourists

It seems tourists cannot operate Drone cameras in Bhutan. Non-Bhutanese don’t get security clearance certificates from MoHCA. This travel agency website states that Drones aren’t allowed for for private individuals excepting government agencies. But it isn’t correct as per recent development in it.

The crews of recent Hollywood movie Snowman Trek have got the permit. Almost all contents in it are Drone camera aerial shots. You can come across aerial videos of Bhutan in YouTube a tourist has made using Drone. You can conclude that tourists can actually operate Drone cameras in Bhutan. But have to obtain permit from BCAA at Paro International Airport.

UAS Regulations is still under review. It’ll be the law of Bhutan pertaining to operating of Drone cameras in the country once it gets through the parliament.

However, tourists can still bring their Drones in Bhutan and then operate after doing custom declaration and then obtaining a flying permit from Legal/Flight Operation Section of BCAA at Paro International Airport.

You can read MoIC website for detail information. It explains how to bring Drone cameras in Bhutan and process necessary permits and seek approvals to operate them.

How to Register Drone Cameras in Bhutan

The circular issued by BCAA and MoIC doesn’t mention how tourists entering Bhutan over road can register their Drone cameras in Bhutan. It also doesn’t say anything on how such tourists can process Bhutan permit for operating Drone cameras.

We can remain hopeful that this information gap gets addressed when Drones Operation Law of Bhutan is through. Until then, only thing a tourist entering Bhutan from border road is doing a custom declaration and applying for permit at BCAA in Paro or MoIC Thimphu.

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8 Comments

  1. You say to read the MOIC website for information regarding Drone importation. However, I’ve been scoring the site and can’t find anything. Can you provide a link?

  2. Hi, I have seen videos of drones flown in Bhutan. Now is it legal to fly them without any permission? certainly not near airports or government centers.

  3. Hi Ab,

    They must have operated after obtaining a permit. It’s not permitted to operate drones without a permit even though it’s not near airport or govt centers.

  4. Hi there,
    I was told by my travel agency (just today) that the drones are forbidden to be used in Bhutan. Is that correct?
    I was planning to bring my drone in next week and apply for the permit at the airport in Paro.

    Is that not possible? or was I given the wrong information? (I am a youtuber so getting aerial footage is essential for me). Thanks a lot!

  5. The circular issued by BCAA doesn’t prohibit the use of drones. But getting registration and the permit to operate seems to take time.

  6. Hi Sherab,

    I’m traveling next month and would like to register the drone. The BCAA website is not working (or at least only in my country is not working). So how can I do the registration? Only in Paro International Airport or can I do it in advance, before landing to Bhutan?
    Does anybody know?

    Thanks a lot!

  7. Hi Rodrigo,

    If you want to register in advance, you can seek the help of a travel agent through which you are going to travel Bhutan. Otherwise, for now, it seems registration is done only at Paro BCAA office.

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