Traveling to Vietnam with a Drone [My Experience]
This wasn’t my first rodeo – or so I thought. Earlier in the year, I traveled to Ireland with my brand new (at that time) DJI Phantom 4 drone. Having that experience under my belt I figured, why not continue traveling to Vietnam with a drone.
About a month out from the trip, I tried to find out drone laws for Vietnam and if I was able to carry the drone on the aircraft the entire way from Pittsburgh to Chicago to Tokyo to Ho Chi Minh City without any issues. After a cursory search yielded no significant results, I placed it in the back of my mind and forgot about it. Up until a couple days before my trip, I remembered that I should spend more time trying to figure out a definitive answer because I didn’t want my drone confiscated by police or by other airport authorities for some reason.
Essentially from what I found from other users on the Phantom Pilots & TripAdvisor was that they had no issues bringing their drone into the country. The only time you could expect some trouble was if you flew close to government buildings. But, how can you tell which building is a governmental building when in a foreign country… I still don’t think that I can answer that question.
Armed with this information, I felt confident about taking my eye in the sky abroad once more, but to SouthEast Asia.
Since Ireland, the only modification that I had done to the original case was paint it in white Plastidip – hoping that it will help protect the original case for as long as possible. Flying from Pittsburgh to Chicago, I had to leave security in Chicago to show the gate agent that I had proper authority to enter Vietnam (you need a Vietnam Visa Approval Letter before you fly there). Once I received my ORD to NRT and NRT to SGN boarding passes I went thru TSA-Precheck where the one TSA Officer immediately recognized that I had a drone with my just based on the case. He seemed intrigued by the case and so I took a minute to explain the process of how I spray painted it with Plastidip.
Eventually, we made it to Tokyo where we had to go thru security once more. This trip, I traveled with my DSLR (Sony Alpha 200 + 2 lenses), a DJI OSMO, my DJI Phantom 4, an external HDD, and my Macbook Pro. You can imagine the look on the security officers face already… After sending the drone thru multiple times, I was instructed to remove the batteries and send them back thru security. The batteries also have to be under a certain mAH rating or else they will be confiscated. The DJI Phantom 4 batteries (5,350 mAH) are under that rating.
Arriving in Vietnam, I thought there would be another backpack dumping fiasco with all my electronics. However, I was pleasantly surprised when they came out of security no questions asked. Vietnam rocks.
The only time I really flew my Phantom 4 in Vietnam was when we were on the Castaway Tour by Vietnam Backpackers Hostel and in Cat Ba, Vietnam just prior to the Castaway Tour. Upon arrival, I chatted with the manager of the island and we were able to work out a deal where I would receive beer in exchange for a 2-3 minute long video of the entire Castaway Tour Experience via Drone. I’ll be sure to address on another post the challenges with flying a drone in Vietnam. That video I put together is below.