KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 23 ― The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) is setting up an enforcement unit to act against flying unregistered drones in the country.
The enforcement unit is expected to start operations early next year and will have bases in 21 airports nationwide, The Star reported today, citing an unnamed DCA official.
“The enforcement officers will monitor the airspace with a special radar that lets the spot drone activity in a specific area,” the source reportedly said.
According to the news report, the unit was introduced because many drone owners are not aware that flying the machines outside their home compounds is illegal.
Drone owners can fly them anywhere in their own compounds up to a height of 50 metres.
Beyond that, all drone owners must have a flying permit from the DCA even if they are using them for leisure, under the Civil Aviations and Regulations 2016.
The permit is valid for three months, and drone owners must specify the location they will be flying. Even then, there is a height limit of 120 metres.
Those who break the law can be arrested, have their drones confiscated and be prosecuted and if found guilty, jailed up to three years or fined a maximum RM50,000 or both.
DCA officers will be working with the police; once detected, mobile patrol officers with high-frequency jammers will be deployed to the area to intercept and seize the drones.
The DCA also plans to make drone registration compulsory and will be implementing this in the next two years.
The regulatory body is proposing a one-time registration fee of RM800 and renewal fee of RM500.
At the moment, only drones weighing more than 20kg needs to be registered.
Malaysia Unmanned Drones Activist Society, a drone NGO, reportedly said it is good to check illegal flights but imposing an exorbitant fee will discourage owners from registering and might keep them operating outside the law.
“Many who use their drones for aerial photography are also unaware that they need a permit from the Department of Survey and Mapping,” its secretary William Alvisse was quoted saying in the same news report.
According to the report, some one million drones have been sold in Malaysia in the past four years with most being “toy grade” priced between RM100 to RM400 and cannot fly beyond 25 metres of the operator.
In Malaysia, drones are prohibited from flying within 7km radius of airports, royal palaces and telecommunications base stations.
KLCC and Putrajaya are also considered no fly zones for security purposes.