131 Bhutan

Divided diagonally from the lower hoist-side corner. The background colors represent spiritual and secular powers within Bhutan. The upper triangle is yellow which denotes the ruling dynasty and the lower triangle is orange which is associated with Buddhism. Centered along the dividing line is a large black and white dragon facing away from the hoist side. The dragon, called the Druk (Thunder Dragon), is the emblem of the nation. Its white color stands for purity and the jewels in its claws symbolize wealth.

Flag courtesy of the CIA World Factbook

Map courtesy of the CIA World Factbook

Google Earth

Trashigang Dzong, built in 1659

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Bhutan is a member of ICAO.
Last updated on April 19, 2024


According to Britannica, until the 1950s, Bhutan was an absolute monarchy whose sovereign was styled the druk gyalpo (“dragon king”). During the second half of the 20th century, the monarchs increasingly divested themselves of their power, and in 2008 King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk, the fifth in a royal line that had been established in 1907, completed the transfer of governmental authority to a popularly elected, multiparty, bicameral legislature. While the monarch remained the titular head of state, the prime minister (generally expected to be the leader of the majority party in the legislature) became the actual head of government.

Historically, the government of Bhutan was autocratic, with no law codes or courts or any of the common features of public administration. Major change came, however, when the third monarch, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk (reigned 1952–72), began to restructure the country’s government to share administrative responsibility, which formerly was his alone. In 1953 a national assembly known as the Tshogdu was established in Bhutan through the king’s initiative. It had 151 members, who were elected by village headmen or chosen by the king and the country’s official Buddhist monastic order. The Tshogdu met twice a year and passed legislation enacted by the king. The Royal Advisory Council was established in 1965 to advise the king and his ministers on important questions and to supervise the implementation of government programs and policies. The Council of Ministers, composed of the heads of the various government departments, was set up in 1968; the ministers were appointed by the king, and their appointments were ratified by the Tshogdu. The Royal Advisory Council and the Council of Ministers, along with representatives from the clergy, constituted Bhutan’s cabinet. The state Buddhist monastic order was involved in government at many levels, and its priests exerted considerable influence.

Upon his death in 1972, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk was succeeded by his son, King Jigme Singye Wangchuk (reigned 1972–2006), who continued the process of reforming the government. Major changes were introduced in 1998, when the king dissolved the cabinet to have it reconstituted, in part, through election by the Tshogdu. Moreover, the monarch transferred most of his administrative duties to the cabinet and granted to the Tshodgu the authority to remove him through a vote of no confidence. In other words, while the king retained his role as head of state, he relinquished his power as head of government to the Tshogdu.

On December 14, 2006, Jigme Singye Wangchuk abdicated, passing the throne to his Oxford-educated son, Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk. This event catalyzed the country’s transition to a fully democratic government. Over the next year the public was trained in the democratic process through a mock vote, and the country’s first official elections, for seats in the National Council, the upper house of a new bicameral parliament, were held on December 31, 2007. Elections for the National Assembly, the lower house, took place in March 2008, completing the conversion of Bhutan’s government to a parliamentary democracy. A new constitution was promulgated on July 18, 2008.

For administrative purposes, Bhutan is divided into some 20 dzongkhags (districts), each with a district officer who is responsible to the minister of home affairs. Some of the districts are divided further into dungkhags (subdistricts). Each dzongkhag and dungkhag encompasses a number of gewogs (groups of villages). Gewogs are governed by elected councils, which are led by a chairperson and a deputy chairperson, with five-year terms. Some areas are designated as municipalities and operate on the same administrative level as the gewogs.

Bhutan’s legal code is based upon traditional Buddhist precepts. In 1968 the judicial system was separated from the executive and legislative branches of government, and a high court was established, primarily to hear appeals from district-level courts. The Supreme Court was established in 2009 as the judicial body with the authority to interpret the newly adopted constitution, and it also hears appeals from the High Court.

Civil / National Aviation Authority (CAA/NAA)

Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) is the safe and secure civil aviation system in the region. Their mission is to:

  •  Ensure aviation safety and security standards through continuous oversight functions in line with the best international practices.
  • Provide continued effective oversight functions through competent professionals.
  • Facilitate air connectivity through international collaboration.
  • Regulate and foster general aviation activities.


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ICAO countries publish an Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP). This document is divided into three parts: General (GEN), En Route (ENR) and Aerodromes (AD). ENR 1.4 details the types of airspace classes they chose to adopt from classes A through G. Bhutan eAIP

Bhutan Airspace

Drone Regulations

Drone Laws

Unmanned Aircraft System Operations 01 May 2017

UAS regs of Bhutan

UAS regs of Bhutan

UAS regs of Bhutan

UAS regs of Bhutan



Chapter 12-UAS Operations

4.12.1 Scope This Regulation is developed in line with section 66(1) of Civil Aviation Act of Bhutan 2016 and shall apply to the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS):

a) Having maximum Take-off Weight (MTOW) up to 6 kg.

b) Flying outdoors.

c) Operating in Visual line of sight (VLOS) and Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS)

d) Operating during daytime (after sunrise and before sunset – as per Aeronautical Information Publication).

e) Having MTOW above 6kg and below 25kgs – under special circumstances.

f) Shall be permitted only for Government organizations.

4.12.2 Applicability This regulation shall apply to operation of Unmanned Aircraft System within the airspace of Bhutan.

4.12.3 Purpose of UAS For Filming, Photography, Surveying, Tele-medicine, Cabling, Agriculture and Monitoring.

4.12.4 Oversight and Enforcement The BCAA shall have the overall responsibility of oversight and implementation of this regulation. Royal Bhutan Police, Royal Bhutan Army and Dzongkhag Administrations concerned shall have the authority to monitor and ensure proper operation of UAS and impound the unauthorized UAS, if required. Department of Forest and Park Services (DoFPS) shall have the authority to monitor and ensure proper UAS operation in protected areas i.e. parks and wildlife sanctuaries. The operator shall immediately produce the UAS operation permit and other documents when asked for by the authorized officials. Impounded UAS shall be handed over to the BCAA. The unmanned aircraft and any of its components shall be seized without warrant if the authorized person believes on reasonable grounds that the unmanned aircraft is operated illegally without the approval from BCAA. Any lost and found UAS within Bhutan must be surrendered to BCAA The UAS operator shall indemnify the BCAA against any judicial process, litigation, or any other action and liabilities due to technical failure and/or contravention of any rules and regulations and the laws of the Kingdom of Bhutan. This regulation does not exempt any person/agency operating UAS from complying with the provisions of any other relevant acts, rules and regulations or laws of the Kingdom of Bhutan. Import of UAS in the country shall need the prior approval of BCAA and must follow the import procedures as per Customs Act/rules and regulations/norms.

4.12.5 UAS Registration Every person/agency lawfully entitled to the possession of UAS must register their UAS with BCAA. The UAS is eligible for registration if it is owned by a person or a government entity of Bhutan. The applicant must complete Appendix I of this Regulation and submit it to the Director General with a payment of appropriate registration fee prescribed under Clause 4.12.20 of this Regulation and appropriate liability insurance. BCAA shall maintain record of registered UAS.

4.12.6 Infringement of Personal Privacy and Properties of others Infringement of personal privacy or properties of others by a person operating UAS shall be strictly prohibited.

4.12.7 Restricted Areas, Military Operation Areas and DangerAreas UAS operator shall not operate an unmanned aircraft, within a restricted area designated under Appendix V of this Regulation, unless the person has approval to do so from the authority responsible for the restricted areas. The UAS operator shall not operate an unmanned aircraft, within a military operating area designated under Appendix V of this Regulation, unless the person has approval to do so from the authority responsible for the military operating area. The UAS operator shall not operate an unmanned aircraft within a danger area designated under Appendix V of this Regulation, unless the person has special approval of BCAA upon considering that the activity associated with the danger area will not affect the safety of the person, property or aircraft.

4.12.8 Populated Areas The UAS operator shall not operate over heavily populated areas or over open air assemblies of people unless approved by the BCAA upon considering the following:

a) Altitudes for safe operation;

b) Consequences of uncontrolled landing;

c) Obstructions;

d) Proximity to airports/emergency landing fields;

e) Local restrictions regarding UAS operations over heavily populated areas; and

f) The emergency termination of UAS flight.

4.12.9 Responsibilities of the UAS Operator The UAS operator shall be responsible for the safe conduct of all operations and shall establish and implement a safety management system (SMS), if the proposed operation is in excess of 3 months. The UAS operator shall not operate in such a reckless or negligent manner that may endanger or likely endanger the life or property of any other person. The UAS operator shall obtain permission from the owner(s) of the property on which a UAS intends to take-off/launch from and/or land/recover on. The UAS operator shall comply with all procedures/requirements established by the BCAA regarding its operation. The UAS operator, or a designated representative, shall have responsibility for operational control. The UAS operator shall be also responsible for contracting services from service providers, as necessary, to carry out its operations. The UAS operator shall ensure that all employees are familiar with the laws, regulations and procedures applicable to the performance of their duties. The UAS operator shall ensure that a UAS is in good operating condition prior to takeoff/launch. The UAS operator shall operate only one UAS at any one time. The UAS operator shall establish means for communications with the local ATC unit before and after the operations and/or during emergency situations.

4.12.10 Airspace The UAS operator shall operate UAS at a minimum lateral distance of 150ft (50m)from a building structure, vehicle, animal or person unless the building, structure, vehicle or animal is the subject of the aerial work and only persons inherent to the operation are present. The UAS operator shall operate at a lateral distance of at least 600ft (200m) from heritage and archaeological sites. The UAS operator shall:

a) Observe the surrounding airspace to ensure that no other aircrafts are operating; and

b) Not operate the UAS at any height above 300 feet (90m) above ground level;

c) Shall not operate the UAS within 5 km of a controlled aerodrome, unless it is operated in accordance with authorization from the ATC Section, DoAT. The UAS operator approved for operating within controlled airspace under BVLOS condition shall ensure that the aeronautical information service provider is informed at least 24 hours prior to the operation, for the issue of a NOTAM, with the following information:

a) Name, address, and telephone number of the operator;

b) Location of the proposed operation;

c) Date, time and duration of the proposed operation; and

d) Maximum height above ground level proposed for the aircraft operation.

Visual line of sight operations

4.12.11 Visual Line-Of-Sight (VLOS) Operations The UAS operator shall maintain a continuous unobstructed view of the UA, allowing the operator to monitor the UA flight path in relation to other aircraft(s), person(s), obstacle(s) (e.g. Vehicles, vessels, structures, terrain, etc.), for the purpose of maintaining separation and avoiding collisions. The direct visual contact shall be ensured without visual aids (e.g. telescope, binoculars, and electro-optical reproduced/enhanced vision) other than corrective lenses. VLOS operations shall be conducted during daylight hours and in Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) to avoid conflicting traffic and other safety risks related to hazards that may be present in the operating environment.

4.12.12 Beyond Visual Line-Of-Sight (BVLOS) Operations The UAS operator shall avoid traffic and all other risks such as hazardous meteorological conditions, terrain, and other obstacles. Prior to conducting a controlled BVLOS operation, UAS operator shall coordinate with the ATC unit(s) regarding:

a) Any operational performance limitations or restrictions unique to the UA such as inability to perform standard rate turns; and

b) Direct telephone communication between the UA Station and the ATC unit(s) – for contingency use, unless otherwise approved by the ATC unit(s) involved. Communication between the UA Station and the ATC unit(s) shall be required, and shall utilize standard ATC communications equipment and procedures, unless otherwise approved by the ATC unit(s)involved. BVLOS operations shall meet following conditions:

a) The BCAA shall approve the operation;

b) The UAS shall remain in VMC throughout the flight;

c) A DAA capability or other mitigation is used to assure the UAS remains well clear of all other traffic;

d) The area is void of other traffic; or

e) The operation occurs in specifically delimited or segregated airspace.

4.12.13 Night Operations The UAS operator shall not operate the UAS at night.

4.12.14 Right ofWay The UAS operator shall be responsible for the safe operation and separation from other air space users. The UAS operator shall maintain continuous unaided visual contact with the UAS sufficient to be able to maintain operational control of the UAS, know its location and be able to visually scan the airspace in which it is operating to decisively see and avoid other air traffic or objects. The UAS operator shall ensure that the person operating gives way to, and remains clear of, all UAS and all manned aircraft(s) on the ground and in flight. If at any time the operation is deemed to be a risk to other airspace users or people and property on the ground, the person operating the UAS shall cease the operation until the unsafe conditions are addressed/remedied.

4.12.15 Hazard and Risk Minimization The UAS operator shall take all practical steps to minimize hazards to persons, property and other aircraft(s).

4.12.16 Dangerous Goods and Payloads The UAS operator shall not allow any object to be dropped in flight if such action creates a hazard to other persons or property. Transportation of dangerous goods by UAS shall be strictly prohibited.

4.12.17 Command and Control Link (C2) Following issuance of the Permit by BCAA, the UAS operator shall obtain clearance for the radio frequency spectrum from BICMA for the C2 link. The UAS operator shall ensure that only the radio frequency spectrum approved by BICMA for the C2 link issued. The UAS operator shall not conduct a take-off/launch of a UA unless the risk involved with loss of C2 link circumstances has been assessed and a proper contingency procedure has been established for the recovery of the UAS in case of a lost C2 link situation.

4.12.18 Competency of the Person Operating UAS The UAS operator shall be no less than 18 years of age. The UAS operator shall submit license or documentary evidence indicating that the operator has adequate experience or demonstrate the ability to:

a) Identify and manage hazards and threats;

b) Operate the UA within its limitations or those limitations imposed by the regulations;

c) Complete all maneuvers with smoothness and accuracy;

d) Exercise good judgment and airmanship;

e) Apply aeronautical knowledge; and

f) Maintain control of the UAS at all times in a manner such that the successful outcome of a procedure or maneuver is assured. The UAS operator shall:

a) Ensure that before each flight, he/she is aware of the airspace designation under Appendix V of this Regulation, and any other applicable airspace restrictions in the area of intended operation; or

b) Conduct the operation under the direct supervision of a person who is aware of the airspace designation and any other applicable airspace restrictions in the area of the intended operations.

4.12.19 Procedure for Registration of UAS and Issuance of UA Operation Permit An application for registration of UAS in Bhutan shall be made by the person, or by authorized representative of the person, who is lawfully entitled to the possession of the unmanned aircraft. To register the UAS the applicant shall complete the Appendix I of this Regulation and submit it to the Director General with a payment of appropriate Registration fee prescribed under Clause

4.12.20 of this Regulation. The operator having registered its UAS and intending to perform civil operation in Bhutanese airspace shall complete Appendix II of this Regulation and submit his/her application to the Director General with a payment of appropriate UA Operation Permit fee prescribed under Clause 4.12.20 of this Regulation for Unmanned Aircraft Operation Permit (UAOP). This application shall be accompanied by the clearances from following agencies, or as recommended by BCAA:

a) Clearance from MoHCA and other relevant agencies if the UAS operation area involves heritage and archaeological sites;

b) Clearance from DoFPS if the UAS operation area involves protected areas of nature and wildlife sanctuaries;

c) Security Clearance from RBP if the UAS operation area involves security sensitive locations;

d) Security Clearance from RBA if the UAS operation area falls within “No fly Zone’ of RBA; and

e) Other clearances as recommended by BCAA Submit technical specifications of the UAS to BCAA. Submit documentary evidence and/or practical demonstration indicating that the operator has adequate experience and competence. Submit liability insurance details covering risks of public liability for UAS, which exceeds 6 kilograms. Shall sign the undertaking (Appendix III of this Regulation), bearing the accountability for any liabilities occurring during the operation of UAS. The applicant shall make a payment of Nu. 500/- as an Application review fee prescribed under Clause 4.12.20 of this Regulation. The applicant shall make a payment of Nu. 250/- for the Permit replacement fee, if it’s for the Replacement as prescribed under Clause 4.12.20 of thisRegulation. The Application for Unmanned Aircraft Operations Permit (UAOP) shall be submitted to the Director General at least 30 days prior to the actual operation. The issuance of the Unmanned Aircraft Operation Permit (UAOP) by BCAA shall be subject to fulfillment of all the requirements of this regulation by the applicant. The BCAA shall not process the application until full set of required documents and the applicable fees and charges are received from the operator. The BCAA shall withdraw the application after 60 days of its initial submission if the operator fails to comply with provision and Fees and charges shall not be refundable.

4.12.20 Fees and Charges UAS Registration fee: Nu. 1000. UA Operation Permit fees:

a) One week to three weeks: Nu. 2000;

b) One to two months: Nu.4000;

c) More than two months and less than six months: Nu.6000; Permit replacement fee: Nu. 250; and Application review fee: Nu. 500.

4.12.21 Offense and Penalty Any person operating Unmanned Aircraft without the prior approval of BCAA shall be liable for a fine of Nu. 20,000 to Nu. 50,000 as determined by BCAA and seizure ofUAS. In case of Tourist, UAS shall be seized while the Local Tour operator shall be liable for a fine of Nu 20,000 to Nu. 50,000 for failure to inform the Tourist of restrictions. The operator infringing personal privacy or properties of others shall be liable for a fine of Nu. 10,000 to Nu. 20,000. The person/designated representative operating in unauthorized/restricted areas shall be liable for a fine of Nu.50,000. The Unmanned Aircraft when in flight drop or discharge any item or substance (whether gaseous, liquid or solid), the person operating the Aircraft shall be guilty of an offense and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding Nu. 50,000 depending on the severity of the case. Contravention of any other provisions of this regulation, or any rules, directives or orders issued pursuant to this regulation shall be punishable with imprisonment up to one year or a fine equal to Nu. 50,000. Notwithstanding 4.12.21 above, seized UAS shall be returned to Foreigners, on a case by case basis, when advised by the Government.

Appendices – forms





Advanced Air Mobility (AAM)


Short Essay Questions

Question 1

You have been hired by a Drone Startup Company. Your boss has immediately assigned this job to you.

They need you to prepare a one-page memo detailing the legalities of using a drone to film the building, pictured above.

They need you to mention any national laws and local ordinances.

They specifically want to know what airspace you will be operating in and whether or not you need an airspace authorization.

Does it matter whether or not you are a citizen of the country?

Lastly, there is a bonus for you if, as you scroll through this chapter, you find any typos or broken links!

Question 2

Do you need a certificate to fly UAS?

If so, how do you obtain one?

Are there fees associated with this?

If so, how much?

Question 3

May you operate beyond visual line of sight?

If so, what procedures must you follow?

Question 4

Does the country have UAM/AAM laws? If so, describe, citing the exact law.

Question 5

Are you aware of any new laws or policies not mentioned above? If so, describe, citing the exact law or policy.





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Drones Across the World Copyright © 2023 by Sarah Nilsson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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