For our roughly one-month trip through Peru and Bolivia, we took along a Drone, or to be more precise, a DJI Phantom 4. The fact that the legal situation is different in every country and that we in Switzerland are lucky in this way didn’t exactly facilitate our plans. In this posting, I’ve written about our experiences and the steps we took in Peru and Bolivia, but you should still be aware that the laws in each country can change and that things can become easier or even harder. If you’ve had similar experiences in other countries, you can of course feel free to let us know.
Am I even allowed to fly a drone in Peru and Bolivia? Do I need a certificate or a permit? What airline and airport regulations do I need to know to be in compliance when transporting a drone? We asked ourselves these questions at the very start and got going on finding the answers.
Taking Your Drone on the Airplane
If you use these exact words in a Google search, you get all kinds of answers from the drone forums and blogs. Some people will tell you that you can take the drone along in your carry-on baggage. Others claim that it has to go with your checked luggage. Taking a closer look at the luggage situation, we can see that frequent flyers and diligent news readers will already know that since April 2016, the battery can only go along in your carry-on luggage, which means that a part of the drone cargo is already consigned to your hand luggage.
Since drone propellers are considered stabbing weapons, they’re not allowed to go in your carry-on luggage and belong with your checked baggage.
Every Airline Has Its Own Rules
As Schiphol Airport already informed us on Twitter, it’s best to ask the airline, which I did for our flight with Swiss from Zurich to Amsterdam, and again for our KLM flight from Lima to Amsterdam.
After checking with Swiss International Airlines on Twitter, I was told that you’re not allowed to transport drones in your carry-on luggage. I consequently paid on extra 55 francs online to be able to transport another piece of luggage one way.
Be sure to do this online before the flight so that you can save money, because an additional piece of luggage often costs twice as much if you pay at the airport.
Royal Dutch Airlines is a bit more open and lets you transport them in your carry-on luggage. But their answer still mentions the transport of batteries.
Since I had to check the drone with Swiss, I obviously also had to find a real drone case. Brack.ch offers several packs, and I decided on the Lowepro DroneGuard BP 450 AW. (Warning: the backpack diverges in two places from the permitted carry-on dimensions by about a 1 cm.
When the bag is transported as checked baggage, you need to ask at the counter if there’s an option for having the bag handled with extra care when being brought onto the plane. According to Swiss on Twitter, the Zurich airport has “Fragile—Handle with Care” labels, but the people at the counter had no idea about this. Next time, I’ll check the bag and carry it to the gate (it doesn’t contain any prohibited items, and they’ll screen it at the security checkpoint). Once at the gate, I’ll ask a Swiss employee nicely if he could still add the case to the checked baggage, as they’ll often do for other carry-one luggage.
Drones in Peru
Through my research on drone laws in South America at, I found out that bringing a drone along to Peru is not that easy. A couple of people even suggested that you’d be better off leaving the drone at home. After several lengthy discussions with Daria, in which we were uncertain whether we’d be able to use the drone at all in the end and consequently be lugging it around for no reason, I decided to take the drone along. Worst case, I would just have to leave it at the airport for 27 days.
On inquiring at Peru.Travel, I was informed that a drone in Peru would be no problem. You just had to obtain a permit and do a temporary import at the airport so that you have to deposit the sales tax.
Order of Events
On the airplane, you indicate the drone on the entry form, including its approximate value in dollars.
On arriving at the airport, you go directly to customs and hand in the form. Smuggling won’t work, since the case will be scanned on leaving the airport (watch out, or you’ll be fined). We had a competent, English-speaking official on site who knew exactly the best way to deal with a drone in Peru.
Once the serial number and model of the drone were recorded, my pack, which I handed over, was weighed and I left it there.
The next day, we made our way to the Ministry of Transport and Communications to get a permit. Be aware that here they really do speak only Spanish, so it’s very helpful to take along a Google Translator or Spanish-speaking colleague.
After going from counter to counter, we were told that we could pick up our permit five hours from then.
Five hours later, we had our permit and drove back to the airport. At the airport, you show your permit and pay the sales tax. Once you’ve paid, you get your drone back and are notified that you need to be at the counter three hours prior to your flight to get back the sales tax money. This is where it’s important to bring the same drone with you, since the serial number is rechecked.
- Be sure to include one day in your plan for dealing with the authorities and the airport.
- Mention to the authorities that you’re in Lima for only one day. Otherwise, it can take 3–5 days to get your permit.
- If you want to save time, fill out the form at home: Download Drone Form Peru.
- Bring along the receipt for the drone, since you have to prove that the drone is from your native country (or that you got it there).
- ALWAYS carry your permit with you.
- In Peru, we met quite a lot of locals who had never seen a drone before and would studiously watch us, but we never had any difficulties with the police or whatever. You should still be careful to not fly it around airports, military installations, or religious sites (Machu Picchu).
Drones in Bolivia
Figuring out drone laws for Bolivia was a bit difficult, since according to the Internet, there aren’t any. When I asked at the embassy and the Bolivian tourism office and got no answer, I decided to risk it for our trip, during which we’d only be spending seven days in Bolivia, and I just took the drone along across the border.
After we’d flown around on the Isla del Sol and then later arrived by boat at a police checkpoint, where everyone had to empty their pockets and show their contents, we quickly lost our fear when the policeman said nothing on seeing our drone. Later, we also flew in Copacabana, Salar de Uyuni, and La Paz with no problem.
Drones are not yet that well known in either country, which is why there are often no laws or regulations. In Peru, we were really surprised at how well informed the officials were about drones and the local laws, which made the process relatively easy for us. In Bolivia, either the police may just not have cared at that moment or there aren’t any laws in Bolivia.
Our Tips for Traveling and Flying with Drones:
- Check the Internet for individual experiences and laws.
- Ask the airlines and airport about drone regulations.
- Inquire at the embassy and tourism office, or check with colleagues who live locally.
- Always be sure to be present when starting and loading your drone so that it doesn’t get stolen.
- Don’t fly around airports, religious sites, government buildings, and military installations unless the local law states something else.