Legal regulation around drone usage is nascent and varies hugely from place to place. The VPN company Surfshark turned to data visualization to help make understanding the web of laws that drones are subject to around the world. Some countries have outright banned the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), while others are more flexible about their private use.
The company relied on publicly available data on drone laws from the Library of Congress, the UAV Coach, RAND Corporation, and the UAV Systems International, and created both a global map and smaller ones for regions, roughly divided into Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, Central Asia, the remainder of Asia, Oceania, and Africa.
For example, here's a look at drone laws within the Middle East and Central Asia. Though the focus of the maps is commercial and private use, it doesn't gloss over the fact that countries like Iran have plenty of experience with drones, but not the sort you buy in the store. Rather, it's one of a number of Middle Eastern countries that's been on the receiving end of military drones, the strikes of which have resulted in numerous civilian casualties.
UAV enthusiasts may rue the draconian measures of some nations, but being aware of every countries legislation and rules around privacy and safety can only help keep them out of trouble. Surfshark's helpful tool even covers the fact that drone laws can differ based on where you are in a country. Even in the United States, drone laws and regulation change depending on which state you're in. It's so complicated and ever-evolving that lawmakers have struggled to establish coherent legislation given the massive expansion of the drone industry.
The main legal categories — Surfshark's map divides drone laws into several major types. Depending on where you are, drones are either outright banned, generally restricted with a few exceptions (such as the presence of an observer alongside the drone operator), allowed as long as drones are within line of sight, experimental flying allowed (which means you can fly beyond the visual line of sight), unrestricted flying (which Surfshark says is "when flying away from private property and airports, under 500 ft height and with drones weighing less than 250g"), or no legislation whatsoever.
The categories are based on legislation information as of October 2020, which makes Surfshark's map one of the most recent visualizations of drone laws. Here's a look at the world map. Click here to expand it.
Currently, at least 143 countries have their own version of drone laws. These laws can and do change over time. Demystifying and bringing clarity to the subject is of great public value as these maps give us an idea about the laws that govern our skies, how they differ from other regions, and what drone operators should be mindful of. Let's hope Surfshark keeps it updated.