EDIT : I have received dozens of emails with similar requests so I will answer here. I cannot personally provide a flying permit if you are bringing your drone from overseas and do not know the procedure to do that.
Since this blog post was written, a large number of people have seen their drone confiscated at Danang international airport. If you're flying into Danang, do NOT bring your drone with you, it will get confiscated, unless you have express authorisation from authorities to use it. There is no way around this unfortunately. For the moment, this only applies to Danang, but could be extended to other airports in the future.
For many people traveling to Vietnam, the country seems like a perfect opportunity to bring a drone. Incredible scenery, wide open spaces and beautiful seascapes all make Vietnam the perfect "drone country". But there are many rules in place here and breaking them could get you into trouble.
I'm a freelance videographer and drone pilot based in Ho Chi Minh City. Here a few tips that could help you out if you're traveling to the country and plan on bringing your flying camera.
1/ Flying a drone in Vietnam without permission is illegal
The first rule is pretty straightforward. To be able to fly your drone in Vietnam, you need authorisation from the Ministry of Defense and this can be a daunting task when you don't live here.
You have the possibility of putting in the form yourself but :
- it's in Vietnamese !
- it can take up to 3 weeks to be approved so this requires some solid planning
What most foreigners do is they get a company to do the process for them. It takes the hassle out of the process and delays are much shorter (some companies can do it in 4-5 days) .
But of course this process will cost you : between $ 350 and $ 700 depending on who is doing your permit. And that's only for 1 day of flying.
Depending on the number of flights you are planning, this can quickly put you in some major debt.
As a professional drone pilot, it's usually my clients who will be paying for this permit. It ensures that they receive the permit in a timely manner and makes everybody happy.
If you don't want to go through this process, you could always fly without a permit.
2/ Flying in Vietnam without a permit
Technically, it's of course completely possible to fly your drone without a permit, you just have to know the risks. If your idea is to fly in the countryside or over the ocean, then you will probably be fine, as long as you don't attract too much attention.
However, I would strongly advise against flying in populated areas, and especially Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. There is a lot of police presence in the city and flying there is strictly prohibited. Flying a drone comes with risks and it is completely normal that authorities want to restrict their use in urban environments.
So best case scenario, you get off with a warning - policemen will tell you to stop flying the drone, you pack it up and you leave. Worse case, your drone gets taken away and you're on a plane back home the next day (it has happened before !).
As you will see, Vietnamese people are usually very curious about "flycams" as they call it here. They will want to see the scenery from above and could even ask to try the drone/
Always try to take off and land from an area with nobody around or ask people to move away from the drone.
3/ Getting through at the airport
It is forbidden to bring a drone into Vietnam. When you arrive at the international terminal in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, you might get asked some questions about your drone. All luggage is X-Rayed, at least in HCMC, so officials will be aware that you have a drone.
In the past year, bringing a drone into Vietnam has gotten increasingly difficult. Your drone could be confiscated at the border, especially if you are flying into Da Nang. As of right now, I would not recommend bringing a drone in the country.
4/ Feedback from Vietnam
Vietnam is definitely an extraordinary country to fly a drone in. The scenery is breathtaking, weather conditions are often quite good (beware of wind) and much of the country is empty.
If you are a tourist on visit here a short while, be extra careful when you fly. You wouldn't want a police check or a crash to ruin your vacation. I would strongly suggest to avoid flying in the cities and when you're out in the wonderful countryside, have fun.
If you want more information, don't hesitate to reach out, I'll be happy to help !