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Information on UAV in Nepal

May 11, 2015
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After months of leeching information off this awesome forum, I finally have a chance to contribute some information I feel important.

This post is for fellow pilots who is already in Nepal or planning to leave for Nepal to help with the relief program.

I will add pictures and maps when I'm connected to a better network and sorry for the long post! I will do a summary later when I have the time.

First, let me introduce who I am; I’m Steven Matini from Picomo, we specialize in video and photography in Indonesia. We volunteered our service with the Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation team to help them document their activities in Nepal and also help them do surveys of damaged buildings. Our main camp is located in Maheswari square, Bakhtapur, Nepal. Footages we collected was for internal purposes only and will not be sold and used for public broadcast.

We arrived in Nepal on the 5th of May via Kuala Lumpur on Air Asia X D7192. Fast forward a few days, on the 9th we did some passes over Tzu Chi’s main camp in Maheswari. Upon landing we’re approached by one Nepalese police telling us that UAVs are banned with broken English. We explained that we’re doing some aerial photographs of only the camp to assess the layout of the camp and he seems satisfied.

20 minutes later a car with 4 polices armed with 2 shotguns came into the camp and approached us. We were taken to the police station and accompanied with 2 other volunteers and a local translator we were there for 1 hour or two. They asked us to show the multirotor we just flown, a DJI Inspire 1, and explains that the aerial cameras are prohibited by the government. Fortunately we have a presence there and they understood and gave us some leeway so our quadcopter was not confiscated. We then asked them on how to get permission to fly ours and was referred to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN).

10th of May morning we had to take some footages and since we can’t fly, we used bamboo poles with a Feiyutech G4 and Gopro4 attached on the other end. By 1:00 PM we arrived at CAAN office and met deploymedia from Hong Kong, they were with Global Medic and was trying to get their permit too. We spoke with Mr. Subash Jha, the Dy Director and was referred to the Ministry of Information of Nepal to grab the “permission to take pictures and videos” from them. 2:30 PM our team were in the Ministry of Information’s office and met Mr. Anup Nepal and although not in writing received an “OK” since we’re not using it for commercial and public broadcast, we are advised that we do not need any special permission for personal or internal use and was referred back to CAAN’s Mr. Mahendra Sing Rawal the Director General of CAAN.

By 4:00 PM we are back in CAAN’s office and was told Mr. Mahendra was not in office yet and met Mr. Subash Jha and the guys from deploymedia once again. There we’re given tips by deploymedia (Thanks!) and was given an application form by Mr. Subash and requested his business card. We are told to present an official letter from our foundation addressed to CAAN to request the permit and provide information such as time and location of surveys that will be done, type of UAVs, and the Pilot in Command. We told Mr. Subash that we will need time and will be back by tomorrow to complete everything. We didn’t know whether deploymedia received their permit or not and since we forgot to ask their contact number we are unable to ask for more info.

11th of May, since our team was split, we can only spare one member to focus on this permit. He went to CAAN office to hand in our request and arrived there by 10:30 AM and met Mr. Subash again. Mr. Subash received our papers and he later told our team member that in addition to the permit to fly, we still need the permission to take pictures and videos and was told to visit Ministry of Information again to have them place their advice on paper. So at 11:00 AM he went to the Ministry of Information’s office again and met Mr. Anup Nepal to request the papers with an introduction letter written by Mr. Subash. Inside the Ministry of Information’s Office, they explained that after we left yesterday they had a meeting arranged to discuss this matter and arrived in the conclusion that UAVs should not be given permission to fly in order to ensure the safety of low flying aircrafts and helicopters in Nepal airspace.

He then later went back to CAAN office to report and ask for Mr. Subash’s advise on any other way to get the permit and was told that he told us that because our UAV’s payload includes a camera, it will still be illegal to fly the UAV without the Ministry of Information’s permission even if CAAN permit us to fly the UAV. Our team member saw a few forms for filled for UAV permits and was told they too will not be able to fly before receiving permits from the Ministry of Information.

There are several inconsistency within the Nepalese government such as why the Ministry of Information told us that it’s not safe to fly the UAV when their concern is on the footage and not the UAV; and why CAAN has given us a positive response and did not mention anything that the Ministry of Information has mentioned to us. But we’re told not to pursue the issue further and cause un-needed conflict between the government and our foundation.

Well, in the end we’re unable to receive our permit and moved our departure date to 12th of May instead of the planned 15th. We hope deploymedia received their permit and is able to contribute to the Nepal relief program. It was a good experience and the Nepalese official were very kind and cooperative in helping us find our way around the bureaucracy.

From our experience, we can say for sure that if you’re in Nepal or planning to fly in Nepal you will get into trouble flying without prior permit. Please respect local laws. The ban in UAV is not a joke, I’m pretty sure every police in Nepal has been informed and we saw several UAV confiscated already in the Ministry of Information’s office. If you wish to fly, first head to the CAAN office and get your permit there. I wish you a better luck than us. Cheers!

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