Fifty years ago it was
Twenty years ago it was
Today, it is
Also known as unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and sometimes ‘flying cameras’, drones can be used to take aerial photos or videos, walk dogs, search and rescue, and in various other industries. For PDRM (Polis Diraja Malaysia), they use it to increase security (and once to make a Hari Raya video 😉 ).
BUUT before you promise your cousin you’ll be the wedding photographer with your cool new drone, there are some rules you need to be mindful of…
Drones were ok to be used freely before this, but now the rules are a lot stricter…
Recently, the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) decided to be more tiger mother about drones and ruled that people who want to fly them need to get a PERMIT. (Yep, DCA is the one in charge of aeroplanes, helicopters and terbang-terbang things. They were established under the Ministry of Transport to regulate aviation activities.)
The permit rule can be found in the Civil Aviation Regulations 2016: Section 140-144, which was approved by the Government in April this year. More on the permit in a bit… but first, here are some VERY important regulations for drone flyers to take note:
- DO NOT fly your drones near any airport, military base, telecommunication base stations, and residential or commercial areas
- DO NOT fly drones higher than 122m (400ft)
- DO NOT fly drones over a crowd of more than 1,000 people – UNLESS those people are actually involved in handling the drones (so that means NO flying in public parks with random people around)
- DO NOT fly drones near other people’s vessel, vehicle or building
- YOU MUST obtain a permit for every flight you intend to operate
- YOU MUST fly during daylight hours
- YOU MUST only fly in good weather conditions
If all this is making your head spin like a drone out of control, don’t worry. You can call the DCA at +603-88714000 to clarify things.
But majority of drone flyers probably won’t need to apply for permit anyway
Only drones weighing MORE THAN 20kg must apply for the Certificate of Airworthiness (aka le permit), according to the Civil Aviation Regulations. If your drone is below 20kg, then there is no requirement to get a permit.
Most recreational flyers won’t use drones of that size anyway. The popular one is the DJI Phantom (only 1.4kg!!) – the one everybody is using to take wedding photos. Other drones recommended by this site are the Parrot Bebop weighing less than 0.5kg, Syma X5C weighing 0.9kg, and Hubsan X4 weighing 0.03kg.
If the permit scare tangled up your drone wings earlier, you can unwind them now. 🙂
Anyway, even if this doesn’t effect you, those who have to apply for the permit become holders of the Private Pilots’ License (PPL) once it is approved. Wahh, think about it….a pilot’s license! You can tell people you’re a pilot!
Seriously though, it’s not as easy as we think it is. Must meet the training, qualifications, proficiency and currency requirements in the approved DCA Flight Operations Manual. On top of that, training lessons cost an arm and a leg! For the PPL training, it could easily cost RM24,000 – RM26,000 at an approved school.
To know more about droning safely and legally, click here. To apply for permit, click here.
Aiyo, but why make it so mafan for droners? After all isn’t it just…a toy?
One day if the Government says everyone in Malaysia must apply permit for waus or kites, we’ll be ROFL-ing until our appendix tercabut. However, drones are NOT ‘toys’! It’s not like playing with toy remote-controlled airplanes.
Not only does its usage demonstrate that a drone is not a ‘toy’, the SIZE need to be considered as well. Even though they aren’t freaking Boeings, some of them can get pretty BIG. As mentioned, some can weigh more than 20kg – the average weight of a 6-year-old!! Imagine if a small child falls on top of you from the sky, a bit the ouches, right? We even saw this bigass 185kg one that the Government bought to monitor natural disasters.
So it is really a matter of enforcing safety measures because accidents have happened before. In July a 5-year-old boy was struck in the head causing him to suffer a head fracture and 6cm cut. And in March last year, someone flew a drone into the KLIA runway to take photos of the planes, which caused a lot of people to panic. Everyone was scared it could have caused an aviation disaster if it struck a plane’s propellers or got sucked into a jet engine. The DCA itself lodged a police report over that incident.
Even PDRM also cannot simply start using their drones, they said.
“The drone unit has been established and is progressing fairly well. But there are a host of safety and regulatory issues to be resolved and we need to engage actively with the DCA to ensure effective implementation.” – Senior Assistant Commissioner Datuk S. Sathiya Seelan, Commander of the RMP Air Operations Force (PGU), The Star
In fact, other countries also have drone laws that are stricter!
For example, Singapore rules that any drone weighing more than 7kg must have a permit from the aviation authorities. Or if it flies within 5km or 61m (200ft) of any airport. Those who breach these regulations could be fined up to SG$20,000 (RM60,000), jailed for up to 12 months, or both!
In Thailand, the drones are prohibited EXCEPT for research and educational purposes.
In the US, drones must be registered if they weigh between 0.25kg-25kg. So far, it looks like New York has the strictest laws in the country because drones are banned within 5 miles of an airport (which encompasses most of the city), and within a quarter mile of a school, hospital, church, or open-air assembly, making it nearly impossible to fly a drone anywhere in New York. America has good reason to be strict anyhoo, coz the United States’ Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) reported 25 close calls drones.
Paris has also been declared a no-fly zone after a few close calls. If you’re caught flying a drone there, you could be slapped with a RM320,000 fine and maximum of 5 years jail.
But Canada, Japan, China, and European countries have laws that are stricter still than the US, while Mexico and Brazil have no drone regulations at all. We found this website that compiles all drone laws according to country. Very useful.
With all these hurdles, wouldn’t it slow down or stop drone flying? Buttt…we’ve come to rely on drones for so many things wor, like monitor natural disasters, delivering packages, map palm oil plantations, and other useful stuff.
Despite the new regulation, drone hobbyists won’t be put off
CILISOS spoke to drone hobbyist CK Chiew, who is also a studio manager. He has been a radio-control flyer since 1990 and as for drones, he started flying them 5 years ago. He shoots photos and videos for corporate use, MTV and even for construction projects. Here’s what he thinks of the rule:
“It’s good to have clear safety guidelines for those who operate drones, even for radio-control hobbyists. But the Government shouldn’t just simply implement new rules to make our life difficult, with no proper channel for us to discuss, or even apply the permit.” – CK told CILISOS
Well, we have to admit, we ronda-ronda the DCA’s website for quite a while before we found for the permit form to download, whereas finding the US one was a cinch. Just in case you missed it, HERE is the form again.
Ultimately, CK doubts the new regulation would damper hobbyists’ activities. “I think hobbyists won’t be turned off. If the government implemented these rules and regulations, it should make flyers more disciplined,” he added.
Overall, incidents like the KLIA one have been few and far between la. Fellow hobbyists like CK hope people will fly drones RESPONSIBLY, so that it doesn’t end up getting banned. Drone Malaysia Co-founder Hamdi Hamdan told NST: “The drone industry in Malaysia is growing fast so we can’t afford to be lax about safety measures.” Another hobbyist William Alvisse, Director of an aerial photography company, recommended that beginners join a society. Here are some contacts:
- Drone Racing Association of Malaysia (DRAM)
- Malaysia Unmanned Drones Activist Society (Mudas)
- Drone Sports Association
- Drone Malaysia
So, do be mindful that responsible flying will benefit not only you, but the whole drone community in Malaysia. Since the law is a bit lenient-ish right now, let’s not abuse it. We wouldn’t wanna end up like New York or Paris where it’s banned completely.