Category: Tech

This Map Shows You The Drone Laws For Every Country In The World (Updated Regularly)

drone sofia bulgaria

This map is now available in app form! DroneMate is available on the App Store and Google Play.

wifox ios app store     wifox google play android
Many travelers buy a drone to shoot videos of the places they’ll be visiting but when you’re crossing international borders, not being aware of the local laws can cost you fines, hassle, the loss of your drone, or worse. Some countries, even those very popular with tourists, prohibit unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs e.g. drones) from being imported at all.

Many travelers have been caught off guard at customs and having traveled around the world with my drone, can say the rules are often confusing. A big part of this is due to a lot of hearsay and misinformation floating around online, so I got in touch with the appropriate governing bodies in every country in the world to put together this map of official laws for recreational droning worldwide.

  • Last update: July 25, 2017

You can also bookmark the map or this page to keep up with any future updates.

The map is updated regularly and only applies to recreational drone use – commercial drone use requires a permit in practically any country you can think of. I’ve also included links to registration forms and any other relevant contact information you may need before you fly your drone in a given country.

U.S. States And Special Circumstances

Several U.S. states have additional (to the Federal Aviation Administration; FAA) rules governing drone use, those have been included in the map above as well. Additionally, some specific tourist sites, parks, and other areas have their own rules concerning drone use, those have been noted as well.

Help Me Clear The Grey Areas

I’ve tried to organize the map into four main categories:

  • Green: Drone use is generally allowed.
  • Yellow: Drone use is limited or may require cumbersome registration processes.
  • Red: Drone import or use is prohibited or otherwise heavily restricted.
  • Grey: No data or there are no defined or applicable UAV laws.

Of course, not all drone regulations fit neatly into these categories so please feel free to comment if you have any questions – and in many countries, the law may say one thing, but travelers experience another. I hope that you’ll help add to this map by commenting about your experiences below. Lastly, although I’ve done my best to get the most accurate information but it’s informational and ultimately it’s your responsibility to know the rules and not get in trouble. I hope this map helps serve as a valuable guide as you travel with your drone around the world!

Small, Ergonomic, Revolutionary? A Review Of The Penclic R3 Wireless Mouse

The Penclic R3 Wireless Mouse is a rethinking of how you should use the gadget you probably touch most during a given day. Traditional mice put your arm in an unnatural position, causing wrist, elbow, shoulder, or even back pain from using one. Frequent traveling can make the situation even worse, especially if you’re working on hotel, cafe or tray tables in cramped spaces where you have to get into contorted shapes to type.

penclic r3 wireless mouse  Penclic 3-Scroll Ambidextrous Wireless Mouse – Black

amazon buy

I know the mouse isn’t the most interesting piece of technology to write about – they haven’t changed much over the past few decades. But as you can see in the video above, the Penclic R3 is really a creative design, put into a travel kit that’s small, light, and very ergonomic.

penclic r3 wireless mouse

The Penclic connects to your laptop with through a wireless USB dongle connection, has a battery life of about a month, and gives you precision hard to find in a traditional mouse. Getting used to the Penclic though will take some time but of all the ergonomic designs I’ve tried, this comes closest to real comfort in a size that’s actually practical for frequent travelers.

How The DJI Drone Repair Service Works And How Much It Costs

dji mavic drone

Crashing a drone, even one with obstacles avoidance sensors like the DJI Mavic Pro, isn’t hard at all. Small falls from a desk can also put your drone out of commission, easily damaging the sensitive camera lens or gimble. For those of you with DJI drones, they’ve got a fairly polished repair service you’ll hopefully never have to use. But things happen.

Here’s how the DJI repair process works and whether or not it’s worth the hassle, cost, or time waiting.

Recover The Drone

First off, I’m writing about the repair process without any kind of warranty, such as the DJI Care repair and replacement plan. So here you are, you’ve crashed or otherwise damaged your DJI drone and wondering why you didn’t spend the extra $99 to get it insured. Whether you have the warranty or not, you need to retrieve the drone. It’s the reason you see people diving into rivers or me throwing car cushions at trees on YouTube to salvage what seems like a lost cause.

dji mavic  DJI Mavic Pro Fly More Combo: Foldable Propeller Quadcopter Drone

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Once you’ve got your smashed, waterlogged, pathetic looking drone back, log into the DJI website, and head to the repair page.

Find A Service Center

DJI has authorized services centers in over 100 countries (they even list Yugoslavia – not sure what that’s all about). Pick the service center closest to you and select your specific drone (e.g. Phantom 4). The next few pages are where you describe the damage and how the accident occurred.

craiova drone top down

  • Don’t Lie – You might not know it but your drone keeps very details flight records (you can access from the DJI app). Every movement of the drone and controller input is recorded so forget about trying to make a crash seem like a manufacturer defect.

Choose whether or not the damage is a manufacturing defect or pilot error, remove the microSD card, pack up the drone, and send it to the DJI Service suggested to you.

  • Shipping Fees – DJI provide you with a shipping label, covering the shipping, but not packaging, costs.

The average shipping time is about a week, depending on where you’re shipping from of course.

Your Drone Knows A Lot About You

DJI has a repair tracking page whose only purpose seems to discourage you from sending them emails asking where your drone is. Once the technicians get a hold of your drone though, they email you a detailed record of what an idiot the exact events of the accident. Mine went something like this, which you can compare to the crash video below.

Unit was in P-GPS mode and was responsive to RC input; 2. At t=237.9s, relative height=7.1m, unit recorded external impact, then rolled over and fell. 3. User commanded full stick forward toward a tree in a parking lot until 1s before impact. User pressed left turn, backward, right turn, descent, and rightward 1s before impact but forward momentum carried unit to the tree. 4. Obstacle avoidance could not detect fine tree branches due to hardware limitation, especially during winter with no leaf on. Conclusion: User stick command error. Impact in air.

DJI Repair Costs

Obviously this will vary depending on your specific repairs but here’s a general breakdown of the costs, which is contained in that same email with the crash report.

  • Gimbal Camera Component: $101
  • Camera Flexible Flat Cable: $3
  • Back Left Motor Arm: $19
  • Gimbal Vibration Damping: $2
  • Gimbal Mounting Bracket: $1
  • Camera Co-axis Cable: $5
  • Front Left Motor Arm: $22

The service costs $65 an hour – the total work took two hours, added $130 to the cost.

  • Total Repair Cost: $283

Those of you who have DJI Care, if the crash is covered, you only pay up to the warranty. (Varies by drone but for example the Mavic replacement with DJI Care is $79 for the first drone; $139 for the second.) In the email DJI sends back with the costs, they have a Paypal link, where you can decide to pay for the repair or not. Repairs are not started until you make the payment and shipping costs are not charged unless you reject the repair.

Expect To Wait

Clearly, the camera is the most expensive component with labor adding the other bulk of the costs. I was surprised not to see the body, or other parts listed since there were major dents from the fall. I figured DJI would ignore what was probably aesthetic damage but happily surprised when the Mavic was finally shipped back from repair.

dji mavic pro camera gimble

  • Repair Time – Whatever the repair status page says, it will take about 4 weeks.

A drone repaired by DJI is essentially refurbished. There won’t be any signs of previous damage, scratches, or dents. Damaged parts are replaced and repairs are very thorough for the price, essentially 28% the cost of a new drone in this case.

Important: Calibrate Before You Fly!

You may have noticed a few nicks on the Mavic photos in this post and be asking yourself, hey, I thought he said there weren’t any visible marks?! Well, there weren’t when I originally got the Mavic back from DJI but I crashed it nearly immediately. It was indoors for a small test but the Mavic slowly veered left, hitting a wall, then I used the emergency controls to shut off the propellers. I was lucky to have dodged another trip to the service center.

dji calibrate

After looking at the flight records, I realized why the drone wasn’t hovering stably on a horizontal axis. Although DJI tests drones they repair before sending them back, it seems they don’t calibrate the Inertia Measurement Unit (IMU). The IMU orients the drone so when it’s not calibrated properly, it usually drifts.

  • Calibrate All The Things – Be sure to calibrate the compass, IMU, remote controller, and gimble prior to flying any drone you get back from repair.

The DJI repair process is a thorough, but slow, process. Best to avoid it altogether by doing these 12 things before you ever fly a new drone, which will go a long way to prevent a crash in the first place. Given how easy it is to damage your drone combined with the cost of repair makes getting the DJI Care plan all the more sensible. The DJI Care plans cost about 10% the full price of a new drone plus cover two replacement units over the first year – whether or not the damage is your fault. Since it’s a very cumbersome process to add the DJI Care coverage after you’ve purchased your drone (with no guarantees), keep it in mind and part of your budget when shopping.

What To Expect And How To Access The Internet In Cuba

plaza de la revolucion

There are few major cities in the world where you can sit down, open your laptop, and see absolutely no wireless networks available in the wifi list. That’s because the Internet is extremely restricted in Cuba so in many cases, even in Havana, it will be impossible to get online.

Connections that are available usually are slow, flaky at best, and you can’t simply hop on any wifi network you find. Internet access in Cuba works differently than most other places – here’s how to get online and what to expect in one of the least connected countries in the world.

The Government Decides Where The Hotspots Are

There’s a reason why only 5% of Cubans have access to the Internet in their homes. It’s a privilege reserved to those with money – something in Cuba you tend to only have a lot if you’ve got the right government connections or are a visiting tourist. There’s a tiny chance if you’re staying at a casa particular in Havana the Internet may be available to you. For the most part though you’ll have to head to one of the bigger international hotels.

In Cuba there are roughly 240 total Internet access points with 40 being located in the capital Havana. Hotels are the main point for Internet access around the country. (Although some parks have access points as well, they’re often not working or too unreliable to use.) As a general rule of thumb, if a hotel offers currency exchange from the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) to U.S. dollars (USD) or euros, there’s a good chance they’ll have an Internet connection as well. Most anyone you ask will know where the hotspots are or you can just look around in the evening for groups of Cubans lit by the glow of cell phones sitting right outside a hotel.

You Need An ETECSA Card

There are two primary ways to get online: using the ETECSA card (La Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba) or purchasing a voucher from a hotel. The latter is a rip-off I don’t recommend because a voucher is basically is an ETECSA card with a you-don’t-know-better fee costing you 2-5 times more.

cuba internet etecsa card

An ETECSA card gives you an hour of Internet for about $1.50 USD. (There’s also a 5 hour card for $7.50 that nobody seems to have.) After you connect to a given wireless network, you’ll need to enter the numerical username and password on the ETECSA card. It’s best to stock up on them since the cards are the gateway to your online access. ETECSA cards also work on those hotel networks who only offer vouchers. No matter where you are in Cuba, if there’s a wireless network, you’ll need an ETECSA card.

Remember To Logout

ETECSA cards are good for 60 minutes or 30 days, whichever comes first. Once you’re logged in and online using an ETECSA card, keep that particular browser window/tab open. ETECSA cards (hardly ever) log you out due to inactivity or when you close your browser, making them deceptively easy to unintentionally use up.

cuban flag slow motion

Don’t expect much from the Internet in Cuba when you get online however. The connections are inconsistent, ETECSA cards are moody when it comes to working, and at the best of times you’ll have a very slow connection. (About one megabit per second up and download speeds.) Surprisingly though, the Internet is pretty uncensored. You’ll be able to access nearly all foreign news sites, connect to VPNs – social media is open too.

Forget about Skype calls though due to the terrible connection; not just video but even audio calls are barely tolerable. A trip to Cuba won’t be what you think it is, but when you warn your friends and family you might be slow in replying to them, remember it’s hardly comparable to the lagging connections in western Europe. Plan on having practically no Internet connection at all, much like the 1950s Chevrolets, a throwback to consider enjoying while you can. Pores in Cuba’s iron border have begun expanding beyond the airport to include the World Wide Web too.

12 Things To Know Before Flying Your First Drone (So You Don’t Crash It)

Drones offer a photographic flexibility no tripod can but are powerful, delicate aircraft that are surprisingly easy to crash. I learned this the fast, hard way, as you can see in the video above: by crashing a new DJI Mavic Pro right into a tree branch on my second day of flying. Despite being in an essentially empty parking lot, I still managed to down a drone equipped with obstacle avoidance sensors.

Drones sent back to DJI for repair are essentially refurbished, with nearly no visible sign of previous damage. Once I got the Mavic back, I flew it in a living room… for about a minute, before another (albeit) minor crash.

As I said, drones are very, very easy to crash, which is probably why we hear about it so often in the news. Since those first mishaps, I’ve flown successfully for hours, shooting travel videos around the world. Other times, I’ve taken the Mavic out to open spaces, pushing it to its limits in a variety of weather conditions. Those early crashes taught me a lot about how to avoid crashing. Here’s what I recommend to any new or inexperienced drone pilot about flying, to protect your drone, the people, and places you’ll be filming.

1. Start Small

arthurs seat drone photo scotland edinburgh

This is a hard piece of advice to follow admittedly, but if you’ve never flown a drone before, getting a serious machine like a Phantom 4 is akin to hopping into a Lamborghini right after receiving your driver’s license. Smaller drones like the Parrot Bebop 2 are more difficult to pilot since they lack the advanced stabilization features of more expensive models, giving you a very good feeling for quad-copter flight. They’re also less powerful, moving slower, staying lower, and being less expensive, not as costly if you make a mistake.

2. Read The Entire Manual

mavic drone camera gimble

Whether or not you completely ignored the first piece of advice above – read the entire manual of any drone before using it. Learn the controls and practice them, with everything turned off. When I first hit a tree, I attempted to turn left out of the way. All I ended up doing was rotating on an axis because I knew the controls but wasn’t familiar enough to use them unconsciously. You need to be able to use the drone controls without having to think about them, like riding a bike.

  • Particular Features To Review Well – Return-to-home functions, emergency shutoff, pause buttons, can all get your drone out of trouble quickly. Hopefully you’ll never have to use any of these functions but knowing about them can protect you as well as other aircraft and buildings against collisions.
  • Don’t Rely On Automated Avoidance Systems – A good feature in concept but in practice, they only detect large, solid objects. Obstacle avoidance is a good fail-safe but never assume its going to save you from smashing into things.

3. Don’t Fly Indoors

writers musuem edinburgh

Drones are hard enough to fly outdoors. Many people think the propellers of a drone will power through a small nick of a wall but what really happens is as soon as they touch anything, it’s game over. Indoors there are more obstacles to hit plus walls dampen GPS signals. Depending on the drone you have, losing a GPS signal can mean your drone switches back to a less accurate positioning system (e.g. ATTI mode on some DJI models). At best the drone will drift a meter or two horizontally – not a problem in most cases outdoors – inside though it could easily run you into a wall.

  • Return To Home Trouble – Many drones have a ‘return to home’ function that’s activated when the drone loses signal with the remote. Typically, there’s some preset altitude the drone will ascend to in order to avoid obstacles, then try to fly back to where it took off. You don’t want ‘return to home’ to be activated indoors since the drone might shoot right up into your ceiling. Yes, you can turn off return to home or set the drone to simply hover if it loses a connection, either way you’re still taking a big risk of an indoor collision.

4. Become Familiar With The Drone App

dji mavic drone app

Now that you’ve become a bit familiar with the remote controller, it’s time to power it on and the drone. Don’t take off yet. Many drones use a mobile app to give you a large variety of flight and video controls. Since your drone app probably won’t be fully functional with the drone turned off, keep it on the ground, power on, and become very familiar with the options. Set the important features: return-to-home (set default altitude as high as allowed), maximum altitude, distance, enabling beginner mode if available.

  • Simulator – A lot of drone apps (DJI, for example) have flight simulators built-in. Simulators are a fantastic way to get comfortable with flight controls while getting a feel for the drone’s sensitivity, without any risk.

5. Respect The Weather

loch ness drone

All manufacturers list maximum wind conditions you shouldn’t fly in. I have tested the Mavic Pro in winds higher than are recommended and found unless you are flying in winds much stronger (double or triple) the recommended maximums, it probably won’t bring your drone down. What wind does though is noticeably move the drone on its horizontal axis making it much easier to hit nearby objects. Especially difficult become landings – the stronger the wind the larger the landing area you’ll need to touch down safety. Beginner pilots should stick to calm skies only when starting out, and no matter how experienced you are, be aware of the risks of going over recommended limits.

  • Rain – Unless your drone is waterproof, don’t push your luck by flying in wet conditions as it’s quite dangerous. A battery that shorts out in midair can turn your drone into a small rock falling from the sky.

6. Learn The Laws

udvar hazy museum

Contact your local, then national, aviation administration if they don’t already have the relevant drone laws listed online.

7. When Flying, Avoid Pushing Control Sticks Full Throttle

dji mavic remote controller

This is important: be gentle with the controls! Most drones have powerful motors guided by sensitive joysticks. Drones can move sharply with light touches and really take off if you hit the gas push the sticks all the way in any direction. Many drones have some options for reducing the sensitivity of the controls. Personally, I don’t like doing so in the case I need to maneuver quickly (seagulls are not your friend) but many other drone pilots prefer to keep the controls toned down.

  • Sports Mode: If your drone has one, make sure it’s off. Every time.

8. Fly In Wide, Wide, Open Spaces

drone photo edinburgh

Flat lands with nothing around for as far as you can see are ideal.

9. Practice Moving Vertically, Then Horizontally, Then Both

loch ness aerial

Get comfortable going up and down first because it’s the easiest direction to navigate in most situations. Then take baby steps moving forward, backward, left and right. Once you’re comfortable manipulating vertically, then horizontally, independent of one another, you can begin combining the two. Slowly, of course.

10. Generally: The Higher, The Better

campina lake

Speaking broadly, the higher up you’re flying (as close to the legal limit, of course), the safer your drone is. There are few things to hit at altitude despite our tendency to feel safer flying closer to the ground. Practice honing your instinct so you go up when flying across areas, or have obstacles in your way. Going over, not around, objects is a mentality that can take time to internalize.

  • Birds – As a general rule, birds don’t bother things above them. Try not to fly underneath birds. If you see a hawk or eagle, it’s best to land, as they might mistake your drone for a stupid, slow bird meal. Seagulls have a habit of chasing drones while crows tend not to bother them if they’re alone. Groups of crows (called a “murder”) grow bolder, seemingly daring one another to “try and kick that thing out of the sky.”
  • Wind Drafts – Drones hover unless you fly them otherwise. Birds do not hover. Updrafts, common around mountains, cliffs, and hills will send gliding birds up and down. Be conscious of how the winds are flowing since any nearby birds will move in the same direction.

11. Look At Your Drone, Not The App

loch ness drone photo

After some successful flights, you’ll feel more at ease navigating with your drone app, as opposed to visually maneuvering it. Although drone apps typically have GPS maps, direction readings, and other very useful information, it can be tricky to look down at your remote controller too long before you get the hang of basic flying.

  • Directional Guidance – Drones that are high up in the sky can be difficult to orient by eyesight. Most drone apps have a directional arrow showing you which way the drone is facing relative to you. Being aware of this feature – and finding it – is why you practiced so much with the app before ever flying.

12. Landing Is The Hardest Part

mavic drone landing pad

The first step for a good landing is to have a good takeoff point. In calm conditions, the size of the landing pad should be at least twice the width of the drone itself. Give yourself more space if there’s wind, remembering not to force a landing if the drone moves in a gust as you’re coming down. Take your time landing and make things easy for yourself by choosing an area without any stones, high grass, or other obstacles around.

Take Things Slow

This may seem like a rather long post about not crashing your drone but the truth is there are many ways an accident can occur – most of which are caused by pilot error. You can avoid trouble by thinking like an airline pilot: know the machine you’re flying well, give everything a width berth, focus on safety, and don’t fight the flying conditions.

Remember to learn how to fly, then work on using your drone as a camera. Once piloting the drone becomes second nature you’ll be able to concentrate on creating wonderful travel videos from your trips.

The Tech Gear And Gadgets I Travel Around The World With: April 2017

foxnomad electronics

The gadgets I travel with, including the laptop I’m typing this on right now, enable me to run a business, share my travels with you, plus stay connected from all over the world. Electronics are an essential component to the lifestyle I have, though the frequency of my travels means I need to be organized, efficient, and light. Reliability is also important since replacing equipment isn’t always an easy option depending on where I am. Because of this, I tend to get a model or two behind the latest version of a phone or laptop for example. This way, any potential kinks have been exposed and the hardware is still fairly future-proof.

Although I keep an updated page of the tech I travel with, in case you haven’t seen it in a while, let me share some updates with you here.

Laptop: Macbook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015): 2.8 GHz Intel Core i7; 16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 memory; 500GB SSD; AMD Radeon R9 M370X

macbook pro mid 2015

  • Recommended Laptop Cover: Incase Icon Sleeve – Very recently my laptop took a scary fall from an airport X-ray machine. The Incase sleeve saved it from major damage, despite a nearly 1.2 meter (4 foot) drop on a hard surface. The fall only left a barely perceptible scratch.

Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS45 [Here’s my full review.]

lumix dmc-zs45

Phone (Daily Driver): iPhone 6s (64 GB)/Space Grey

iphone 6s 64 gb space grey

Headphones: Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones [My full review.]

bose 20i headphones

Drone: DJI Mavic Pro

dji mavic pro

Backpack: SwissGear 1900 Scansmart Laptop Bag

swissgear smartscan 1900 laptop bag

  • All of the electronics in this list, including the DJI Mavic drone, fit into this one bag.

Cable Organizer: Cocoon Grid-It 10.5 x 7.5-Inch Organizer

cocoon grid-it

  • This is a major time-saver when going through airport security because you can pull out all of your cords and adapters at once. I’ve also noticed having cables organized like this means less time waiting for additional bags checks at security – a clump of cables often means re-scanning your backpack.

All Of The Accessories And Lesser Used Items

I carry a number of other phone models, to test new versions of my WiFox app, which is a continuously updated map of wireless passwords from airports and lounges worldwide.

  wifox ios app store   wifox google play android   wifox app amazon
lots of mobile phones

When I’m not using iOS, I find myself falling back on the Google Nexus 5x for stock Android time. For reading books or when I need a larger, mobile screen in general, I use a 64 GB iPad Air 2 protected by an Apple Smart Case.

apple smart caseApple iPad Air 2

amazon buy now

powertripPortable Batteries: PowerStick+ (2300 mAh) PowerTrip (6000 mAh). These batteries have a standby time of up to a year so you’re much less likely to be on a train and realize your batteries died on the road. Read my full review here.

Connectors And Converters

I almost omitted my quiet, simple, and reliable Genius USB optical mouse which I picked up in Argentina in 2010. It was an impromptu purchase to replace its wireless predecessor, stolen out of my bag by an airline employee. It’s a rough world for a mouse but at least its always got a good friend around – mouse pad Albert Einstein. Finally, if you’re a blogger and interested to know what services I use to maintain this site, I have listed them here.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More


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