To Drone or Not to Drone in Pakistan

Apparently, flying a personal drone or an unmanned aerial vehicle in Pakistan is very hush-hush subject. Whenever you try and discuss it, you will find people interested to hear about it, but reluctant. On the other hand, there’s a massive following with people keeping a keen interest. Digital Content creators, Movie makers, News outlets, all seem to be using it pretty frequently. When it comes to the law, it is silent. This means the de facto situation in Pakistan is, unless something is not specifically permitted in the land of the pure, it shall be treated illegal, and if and when it comes under the purview of local law enforcement, you’re sure to land yourself in to trouble.

This is inherently is violation of the civil rights. The practice adopted in more civilized regions of the world is: if the law does not prohibits it, it is legal. We in Pakistan seem to run in the other direction it seems.

Can you fly a UAV in Pakistan?

Yes while the common sense and rule of thumb prevailing for self safety and ensuring citizens’ right remain understood.

  • Avoid flying within five miles of an airport
  • Keep the drone within visual line-of-sight
  • Keep it at or below 400 feet
  • Fly during daylight or civil twilight
  • Don’t fly it at speeds more than 40 Km/h
  • Yield right of way to manned aircraft
  • Do not fly directly over people
  • Do not fly from a moving vehicle, unless in a sparsely populated area
  • A drone does not gives you license to peek at your neighbors’ roof tops and spy.
Drone image capturing sunset and Lyari expressway during lockdown in 2020.
Drone image capturing sunset and Lyari expressway, Karachi

Can you import a drone in Pakistan?

If you want to order a drone online, or want your friend or family to send it to you via post, you can forget about it. The customs are going to hold it, retain it, and you will never get to see it ever in your life. You may, if you manage to, make a Custom Officer “friendly”. Only way you can have that done by handing them money under the table. So the answer is NO.

Someone I know closely went ahead and ordered a drone, next thing he knew, the courier company handed him over a letter from the Customs saying they seek approval from the Ministry of Defense, Civil Aviation Authority. Once we managed to approach the Ministry of Defense, it turned out they handed him over a 6 page document to further seek clearance from the Inter Service Intelligence, Military Intelligence and Intelligence Bureau of Pakistan. By the time he was made aware of the procedure, he was informed by the courier company that the customs have levied a fine on PKR. 100,000 as the item was not cleared in the stipulated time and hence shall be confiscated. This is in addition to the demurrage and Customs Duties.

A few weeks later, it turns out, even if he managed to get all the No Objection Certificate after tearing his life up side down, the Custom Duties, Sales Tax, Additional Custom Duties, Fine of a PKR. 100,000 + other demurrages, would have amounted 3 times the cost of the drone it self. Which by the was not even now.

So you get the picture!

How to own a drone in Pakistan?

If you really want to own a drone? No problem! They are openly available in Markets all over in Karachi, Lahore & Islamabad. Now you can either keep scratching your head how they landed in Pakistan at the first place while you read above that you can’t import it, or you can just pay your money and get it.

There are a lot of Facebook/ WhatsApp group in Pakistan where vendors are available; and they’re pretty reliable. You should do your own due diligence though, but generally they got legit stuff.

So will the legal debacle ever settle?

Knowing Pakistan? It can take a while. However recently, PM Imran Khan said in a statement that a Civil Drone Authority will be established to streamline and regularize the ownership and sale/ purchase of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles as the exchequer has lost enough money due to red tapism and absence of law.

The only relevant directive issued that seems to be effective right now in Pakistan.

At another occasion, Minister for Science and Technology, Fawad Chaudry also insisted that the process should be made simpler to Transparency can help the citizens at large.

Haseeb Uddin

Tech/ food junkie, travel enthusiast, Endless Love for music & poetry.. Online editor for @dentalnewspk @medicalnewspk & @dentaltribunepk & a proud Pakistani!

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