NBTC warns over unlicensed drones

NBTC warns over unlicensed drones

A drone developed by the Defence Technology Institute through a public-private partnership takes flight. The institute is holding talks in Nakhon Ratchasima on ways to prevent invasion of privacy by drones. Wichan Charoenkiatpakul

All existing unregistered drones are illegal and should be grounded, says the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), which Wednesday approved the drone licensing system, an early regulation for unmanned vehicles.

Owners of non-registered drones who need to use them must contact the NBTC to negotiate a penalty, which may include a fine.

They must also contact the Customs Department to evaluate the import process.

Use of non-registered drones is in violation of the existing Communication Radio Act, and carries the penalty of imprisonment for up to five years and/or a fine not exceeding 100,000 baht.

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said the drone import procedure will start at the NBTC Office from here on out.

Shops looking to import drones need to submit an application and pictures of the drones to be imported to the NBTC for its consideration.

Shops must then contact the Customs Department for approval.

Users and buyers need to register their drones by filling out an NBTC application at the shops where they purchased the products.

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The application will require their name, surname and an ID card, as well as the drone’s communication radio serial number and picture.

The move follows the NBTC’s October 2017 resolution in which it ordered all owners to register their drones by Jan 9 or face legal consequences.

All owners of drones were allowed to register via three channels within the 90-day timeline: the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT); the NBTC headquarters and its 21 provincial offices; and police stations nationwide.

But as of the deadline, there were only 8,943 drones registered, comprising 8,219 registered at NBTC offices, 706 registered at CAAT and the rest at police stations.

The NBTC is still waiting on the exact number of registered drones because it has yet to receive updates from police stations nationwide, said Mr Takorn.

Moreover, the NBTC cannot predict exactly how many drones were imported before the regulations went into effect, despite previous estimates that set the number close to 50,000.

“We reiterate that the regulation is intended to ensure the peace of our people and to protect Thailand,” he said.

Mr Takorn said the NBTC needs to optimise the regulatory framework for both drone sellers and users.

According to an NBTC report, imported drones have become increasingly popular in providing a variety of services and activities.

He said the NBTC will continue monitoring the usage of unregistered drones.

“Users of unregistered drones cannot use ignorance of the rule as an excuse as it was imposed in October 2017,” said Mr Takorn.