Can I fly a drone on a safari in Uganda?
Can I fly a drone on a safari in Uganda? Yes, flying drones on a safari in Uganda is possible, but not in National Parks. Uganda allows the entry of recreational and commercial drones, but you need to have a permit issued for it. Drones have been made available to the public and are considered one of the best ways to capture the incredible views of wildlife on a safari in Uganda. Bringing a drone to your safari is an excellent idea, but just like any other country, it has some rules and hoops you must follow before bringing one into the country.
Most Popular Safaris
Safaris mainly include game drives around the country’s national parks, and the animals are a top priority, so their safety is paramount. There have been incidences in other countries where drones were used to track the animals by the poachers, and to avoid more poaching, these were banned. Uganda does not allow drones in national parks to prevent such and to protect the animals. In this article, we will look at the rules for using drones in other parts of the country, the procedure for importing one, and all the information regarding the use of drones in the country, either for commercial or personal use.
Many people traveling to Uganda have been caught off-guard when their drones are confiscated at the customs desk because the Civil Aviation Authority in Uganda (CAA) announced in 2020 new procedures for importing and using drones in Uganda.
Drones are a compassionate concern in many African countries regarding safaris, Uganda included. Uganda has a no-drone fly zone unless you are granted permission, and these are
- Kampala State House
- Entebbe International Airport
- All state lodges in the country
- Entebbe State House
- Presidential Ranch in Gomba
The rules for flying drones in Uganda
First, you need to know all the rules and regulations about flying drones in the country and know how to pass the drones. The guidelines are easy to understand and follow, and we have listed the rules above. Please read them carefully because failure to follow them might lead to dire needs.
You also need to be a drone pilot certified by the Civil Aviation Authority of Uganda. Before getting approved, you will be told of the no-fly zone areas, and failure to comply with the list will lead to severe punishment. Instead of going through all the hustle of bringing a drone and sometimes being confiscated at customs, it is better if you do not come with it.
Reasons as to why you shouldn’t carry a drone on your safari
- Drones are not allowed in national parks, and flying them in parks like Queen Elizabeth, Murchison, and Kidepo, among others, is illegal in all the places near the national parks. Using a drone in national parks is criminal to avoid all the problems of illegally carrying one.
- Drones are risky and noisy and can be intrusive to the animals. The first rule about safaris is that the well-being of the animals comes first, and since they are disoriented by the noise that the drones make, they will only be allowed inside the parks.
- Many letters and certificates are needed to bring in a drone, and no, we cannot help you apply for the drone permit, but we can help organize a great and fulfilled safari.
- In cases where the drone unexpectedly comes down, it becomes challenging to retrieve and might hurt a few animals as it goes down or other tourists go on with their safaris.
- Your drone might also be retained at customs; you must pay a hefty sum to retrieve it.
Research has been carried out, and it is believed that flying drones over national parks agitates, irritates, and disturbs the peace of the wildlife, forcing the animals. Note that when planning a safari, the first thing considered of most importance is the well-being of the wildlife species within the national parks.
Besides Uganda, several countries have banned the use of drones within national parks, and South Africa was the first one to slap a ban on them, followed by Botswana.
Procedures for importing drones on a safari
The procedures for the importation and use of a drone remotely in Uganda follow simple steps and these are:
First, identify the ministry in Uganda that deals with flying drones and monitoring them, write a letter requesting to bring a drone to the country, also known as a letter of objection, and wait for their response before taking any other actions.
Write a no-objection letter to the Chief of Defence Forces in Uganda and attach the no-objection letter received from the ministry.
You can import the drone into the country after acquiring clearance letters from the ministry and the Chief of Defence forces.
You will, however, have to get clearance at the border or Airport by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) or customs before bringing the drone safely into the country. After importing the drone, you need to seek permission from the Civil Aviation Authority by writing a letter about guidelines to the Director of Safety, Security and Economic Regulation. Note that at this point, all the previous documents will need to be presented, including other additional requirements, which are:
- All your particulars
- A class III medical certificate and certificate of drone piloting and license from a recognized Aviation body
- A copy of your third-party insurance
- Map and location of where you are going to be operating your drone from
- An authorization form is fully completed. The authorization fee is to be paid at the Civil Aviation Authority Office located at the Entebbe Airport, and it has to be cash. The fee is 300,000 UGX, including an 18% VAT.
After submitting all the above, The Civil Aviation Authority will issue the following to you.
- The specific operating conditions on the permit given to you
- A Drone’s Operations permit (UCAA)
- Information about the operator of the drone.
Laws governing drone use in Uganda
The rules and laws governing the use of drones in Uganda are simple and should be followed by all tourists intending to bring drones on their safaris. Failure to do so will result in your drone being confiscated and sometimes imprisonment. Although some rules seem ridiculous, we advise you to follow them without fail. The regulations include the following:
- Avoid flying directly above people, especially if they are not in your photo shoot.
- You are supposed to give the right of way to all aircraft.
- No one is allowed to fly the drones within 8 kilometers of an airport or listed fly zones.
- You are supposed to fly either at 400ft or below.
- Only fly the drone out of a moving vehicle if you are in a deserted or sparsely populated location.
- The speed of the drone should be either at 160kmh or under.
- Drones are supposed to be flown during daylight or when there is enough light for them to be seen by other people so that accidents are avoided.
- The drone should be flown where it can be seen (line of sight).
Gadgets allowed on a safari in Uganda
Although drones are not allowed on a safari, especially in national parks and game reserves, there are other gadgets that you can bring on your safari that do not have all the restrictions that come with carrying a drone, and these include:
A camera: Safari memories need to be captured and stored by a good camera that takes excellent and lasting photos so that you keep all your memories alive. Ensure you invest in a good camera to capture the country’s different sceneries, ranging from hills, wildlife, bird species, mountains, and Lakes. A point-and-shoot camera is the best if this is your first time going on a safari because they are easy to operate. Ensure you also have enough storage for the photographs, an extra camera if you can afford it, extra batteries, an extra lens and lens cleaner, a camera bag, and a tripod. There are many opportunities to take as many photos as you want, record videos, and enjoy your safety even without a drone. As you prepare to take good pictures, do not be too focused on bringing only photos; get time and enjoy the safari as well.
Binoculars: A good pair of binoculars is convenient for safaris in Uganda if you want a clearer view of the wildlife. You can easily adjust the binoculars, like animals, primates, and bird species, to see whatever is in the distance. Please carry your binoculars because it will be hard for other tourists to share theirs during viewing time.
A USB Electronic charger: There are so many portable chargers and power banks on the market that you can choose from while on your safari. You will have a wide range of gadgets, and you wouldn’t wish for any of them to shut down when taking photos or recording videos. Choose a portable charger with the highest milliamp per hour to ensure you do not run out of battery.
Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot: The Internet in Uganda is unstable and sometimes does not work in highly remote areas, so you need to carry mobile Wi-Fi on your safari. The portable Wi-Fi will give you access to the internet 24/7, and almost 5 connections can be supported on the device.
Solar-powered gadgets: Due to the abrupt changes in weather in Uganda and power outages, especially when it is raining, you will need an alternative power source. Get solar-powered gadgets like solar lights that you can use in emergencies.
Phones: Phones are a necessity as you plan your safari, and with the new trend of phones that is on the market with good cameras, you can carry your phone but while with the wildlife, ensure that they are in silence so that you do not disturb the peace of the animals.
Other things that you can pack for the safari besides the gadgets include neutral-colored clothes, trousers, long-sleeved shirts, insect repellent, sunscreen, refillable water bottle, snacks, strong hiking boots, socks, waterproof day backpack, garden gloves, waterproof raincoat, warm sweater, sunhat, flashlight and extra batteries, recognition books, first aid kit, and toiletries.
Safari destinations in Uganda
Uganda has numerous safari destinations that you can visit while on your safari, and these include national parks, for example, Kidepo Valley National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Ziwa Rhino sanctuary, the River Nile and the source of the Nile, a trip around Kampala city and many more other entertaining destinations.
When to visit Uganda
Uganda has two seasons, the wet and dry seasons, which determine when to visit the country. The dry season, December to February and June to September, is the best time for many tourists coming to the country. It is the best time to go for chimpanzee trekking, gorilla trekking, game drives, cultural visits, and guided nature walks.
The wet/rainy/low season in Uganda is experienced from October to November and March to May and is an excellent season to travel if you are on a budget. It is a good time to go for a bird watching safari since most migratory birds can be seen during this time. Uganda is an all-year-round safari destination, depending on the safari activities you intend to participate in.
Contact us for more information if you plan to operate a drone on a safari in Uganda.