Thailand says drone users must register or face jail, fines

Drone users who fail to register their devices in Thailand by Tuesday could face up to five years in jail or a THB100,000 (US$3,100) fine, officials said of tough new rules that may hit tourists and media alike.

The regulations, which were announced in October but take effect this week, cover nearly all forms of drone use from commercial and recreational to scientific.

Anyone using an unregistered drone after Tuesday risks a THB100,000 (US$3,100) fine or a maximum of five years’ imprisonment, according to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Office.

“All type of drones except toy drones must be registered,” an NBTC official told AFP, exempting unmanned aerial vehicles under 250 grams (eight ounces) — which aligns with new US rules.

Thailand says it has registered almost 8,000 unmanned aerial vehicles so far, a process that requires users to obtain a licence from the Civil Aviation Authority.

The rule comes as Thailand enters its peak tourism season, with the number of visitors surging.

Governments in the region and across the world are struggling to play catch-up with an industry that often moves ahead of regulations.

In November, Myanmar sentenced three journalists and their driver to two months in prison for operating a drone near Parliament while shooting a documentary.

During the October cremation of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, authorities created a no-drone radius of several kilometers.

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