5 important things you need to know before you travel with a drone

Thinking about getting a drone camera to up your travel ’gram game? Here’s what you need to know before taking it to the skies.

Drone snapping a shot of a couple
  • Syafii Ghazali and Sarah Reid
  • March 2020

From the do’s and don’ts of drone flying to the best ones to get for travel photography, this guide has you covered.

1. Know the local laws

Aerial shot of Gardens by the Bay
With its ability to snap bird’s-eye view shots, a drone camera is sure to give your travel snaps a serious upgrade.

The rules on drone use differ from country to country so check ahead. A few countries have banned drones entirely while some like Vietnam require a permit. As a general rule, never fly near airports or over groups of people. Singapore’s drone laws are spelled out at the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore website opens in new window while the UAV Coach website opens in new window maintains a handy global directory.

2. Be transit smart

Snaptain SP650 in flight
The Snaptain SP650, SGD $151, is a great drone for beginners. Weighing just 125g, it has a high-definition camera that takes good aerial photos and videos, and it can do stunts like a barrel roll at the tap of a button.

Each airline has its own drone policy so be sure to do your homework. Some general rules apply: drone batteries must always be packed in your carry-on luggage and the contact points should be covered with duct tape. It is also best to pack the drone itself in your carry-on to prevent loading and unloading damage. To ensure you are doing the right thing, check Jetstar’s dangerous goods policy before you pack.

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3. Pack spare batteries

Aerial shot of rice terrace in Bali
Short of crashing your drone, there’s nothing worse than the battery running out while you’re in the midst of lining up an epic shot.

Mid-range drones can stay in the air for an average of 20 minutes so you’ll want to carry extra batteries on your travels. As your smartphone acts as the display for your drone’s camera, bring a powerbank for it as well — don’t forget to load it up with apps like Hover, which provides helpful no-fly zone maps.

4. Brush up on drone etiquette

DJI Mavic Mini in flight
The DJI Mavic Mini, SGD $519, shoots crisp 2.7K video and 12-megapixel photos, but what makes it truly special is its weight. Many countries like Singapore and Australia require all drones above 250g to be registered — the DJI Mavic Mini falls just a gram below this, so you will not have to fill in any forms or pay permit fees before flying it.

Do not be that person who ruins everyone’s day at the beach by flying a noisy drone low over people’s heads. Always seek permission before flying over private property (this includes your hotel). If curious locals approach, answer queries respectfully, keeping in mind that a drone can look pretty scary to someone who has not seen one before.

READ MORE: Top influencers and photographers share their secrets to up your Instagram game

5. Put safety first

DJI Mavic Air in flight
The DJI Mavic Air, SGD $1,299, is the most compact drone in the market that shoots 4K video, making it the perfect choice for vloggers who want to capture sweeping landscape shots in ultra-high definition. Oh, and you will not have to worry about it slamming into anything — it smartly avoids obstacles on its own.

Google “drone accidents” and you will be surprised by the number of mishaps that can happen, from injuring bystanders and property to getting attacked by wildlife (yes, there have been cases of drones damaged by monkeys and eagles). Always keep it in your line of sight and be mindful of its surroundings, particularly when launching and landing. On windy days, keep your drone grounded.