Drone users face fines, jail terms
NBTC push to register nearly 50,000 devices
Owners of all drones must register their devices within 90 days or face up to five years in prison and a 100,000-baht fine.
The registration period began on Wednesday. During the process, all non-registered drones must be grounded, according to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission's (NBTC) order issued on Wednesday.
The NBTC stepped in to regulate drones as they are controlled by communication radio frequencies, a matter which comes under the jurisdiction of the agency. Previously, drone users were regulated by Transport Ministry.
Drone owners can register their devices at the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) and the NBTC headquarters and its 21 provincial offices as well as police stations nationwide.
According to the order that became effective after an NBTC board meeting on Wednesday, the move is aimed at protecting the kingdom.
NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said there are about 50,000 drones in the country. They are increasingly popular for a variety of services and activities.
However, only 350 of them were registered under a regulation issued by Transport Ministry since 2015.
"Only 350 drones out of the total of 50,000 -- that's of great concern to the regulator," he said.
He said the NBTC needs to better optimise regulatory systems for drones.
The NBTC needs to register items of radio communication. Registration would include pictures of drones and copies of identification cards of registrants.
People who own drones will have to provide their names, details of serial numbers of communication devices, and pictures.
Mr Takorn said flying and controlling drones needs to comply with the existing regulation governing related conditions by the CAAT. "People must be aware they cannot use drones which are unregistered because it will violate the Communications Radio Act. Punishment includes imprisonment not exceeding five years or a fine not exceeding 100,000 baht or both," he said.
Mr Takorn said when the registration period ends in January 2018, those who want to import drones must seek permission from NBTC first.
The NBTC's call for users and distributors across the country to register their drones has been met with a mixed reaction on social media.
Several Facebook and Twitter users voiced opposition to the move, saying there was no necessity to register and the process was far too complicated.
"I bought a drone at Klong Thom for 920 baht, so I could fly it within a height of 100 metres for my kid to see," said Facebook user Virat Srianan. "It will probably break in three months' time, so is registration really required for that?"
Twitter user Puean Reak Ta Whan had similar views.
"Registration should be available at the stores selling the drones themselves. Most people will not go to the NTBC's headquarters to register because it is tedious and a waste of time," wrote Twitter user Puean Reak Ta Whan.
Other online reactions from Facebook supported the drone registrations. "It's a matter of national security," said Chai Dechmanee. "Drones with cameras can easily be used to spy on others."
"If you want to use them freely, then use them responsibly. Some use them irresponsibly, and it ruins the fun for the rest," said another Facebook user, Bas Bas Classic.