A Complete Guide to Drones in Samoa
With glorious beaches, dramatic lava fields and majestic waterfalls, there are many landscapes in Samoa that simply beg for an aerial shot! While you may have seen some amazing drone footage from Samoa and may be allowed to bring drones to the country, it is illegal to fly a drone here unless you have a permit. In this guide, we go over how to obtain a drone permit, as well as the rules for flying a drone in Samoa.
Can You Take Your Drone to Samoa?
Note that you may want to pack your drone in your carry-on luggage, rather than checking it in, as airlines are usually only liable for up to a certain amount of goods per person; i.e. less than what a drone usually costs. What’s more, lithium-ion batteries are not permitted in checked-in luggage, as they are classed as “dangerous goods”. You should, therefore, at least pack your drone batteries in your carry-on. For more packing tips, head to What to Pack for Samoa: A Full Samoa Packing List.
Do You Need a Permit to Fly Your Drone in Samoa?
It is illegal to operate a drone in Samoa without obtaining a drone permit. Drone permits must be obtained from the Ministry of Works, Transport and Infrastructure (MWTI) before you can legally fly a drone in Samoa airspace.
Where to Get a Drone License in Samoa
Those wishing to fly a drone in Samoa must first obtain an application form from MWTI. The application form is the “Requirements for RPAS Part 101 and Unmanned Aircraft Operator Part 102 (DRONE) Permit“.
Drone permit application forms are available online at the MWTI website. Otherwise, you can pick up a form from the MWTI office in Apia located at Level 4, TATTE Building, Sogi, Apia.
What Information is Required for the Samoa Drone Permit?
The following information needs to be provided on the Samoa drone permit application form:
- Drone type and name
- Images and serial number of drone and remote control console (if they are different)
- Passport/driver’s license of person(s) who will operate the drone
- Specifications of the drone
- Drone insurance cover (for commercial operators only)
- Date, time and location(s) of the operation(s) (if applicable)
- Images of location of drone operation (if operating within 4 km of any airports)
- Purpose of drone operation
- Business license (if applicable)
- Exposition (required for drone mass of 25 kg and above)
- RPAS license/qualifications (provide copy if applicable)
- Email and contact number.
Note that MWTI may ask for additional information. For instance, it is likely that you’ll be asked to supply proof of training or experience you have had with operating drones.
Where to Submit the Samoa Drone Permit Application
The Samoa drone permit application must be submitted via email or mail with a cover letter to the “Secretary for Transport/Chief Executive Officer” and copy in the “Director of Civil Aviation (DCA)”, the “Principal Licensing and Certification Officer” and “Licensing Officer”, whose current email addresses can all be found on the MWTI website.
Applications by mail must be addressed to:
Private Bag, MWTI
Level 4, TATTE Building, Sogi
Drone Permit Costs and Processing Time
The fee for a Samoa drone permit is approximately ST$200 for commercial/other use; and ST$100 for leisure use.
Applicants must submit the application, at the latest, seven days prior to the date of the proposed drone operation. Providing all of the correct documents are supplied in the application, MWTI requires a minimum of five working days to process the application.
Samoa Drone Rules
Once you have obtained a drone permit in Samoa, there are some drone rules that you must adhere to:
- Do not operate at night time
- Do not operate a drone within 4 km of any aerodrome (Faleolo Airport, Maota and Asau)
- Do not operate at above 400 ft above ground level; and
- Give way and remain clear of all manned and unmanned aircraft operations on the ground and in flight
- Remain and give way of powerlines and any other object that might be of hazard to drone operations
- Maintain a visual line of sight with the aircraft at all times
- Do not operate when meteorological conditions deteriorate that may obstruct the operator’s ability to main visual line of sight of the aircraft
- Immediately notify Civil Aviation Division – MWTI and Faleolo Control Tower (phone numbers supplied on permit) of any incident or accident that may arrive; and
- Contact Faleolo Control Tower to notify location, height and duration of operations before and after the operation; and
- Obtain permission from community or private land owner to operate on proposed location(s); and
- Carry this permit at all times during drone operation.
Using Drones in Samoa: Photography Fees
Note that some attractions in Samoa apply a fee for using professional photography gear, including drones. Some of these fees range from a semi-reasonable ST$50 to a larger sum of ST$450 to $5,000 if used for commercial purposes. Even if you’re genuinely not using the footage for commercial use, that fact can get lost in translation and the site attendant may want to you pay a fee anyway.
More about paying fees at natural attractions and beaches can be found in our guide, Samoan Etiquette: Samoa Customs & Traditions.
More About Drones in Samoa
That’s it for our complete guide to flying drones in Samoa. For more about drones and specifically ground photography, however, take a look at the following guides:
- Where to Take Pictures in Samoa: 10 Best Photography Spots
- Sightseeing in Samoa: Top 10 Sights in Samoa
- What to Pack for Samoa: A Full Samoa Packing List
Finally, for more tips on bossing it in Samoa, see the 30 Tips for Travelling in Samoa.