How I got my drone confiscated in Morocco (the most important thing you need to know about drones!)

Jan 24, 2020

David Williams

Dave Williams is an accomplished travel photographer, writer, and best-selling author from the UK. He is also a photography educator and published Aurora expert. Dave has traveled extensively in recent years, capturing stunning images from around the world in a modified van. His work has been featured in various publications and he has worked with notable brands such as Skoda, EE, Boeing, Huawei, Microsoft, BMW, Conde Nast, Electronic Arts, Discovery, BBC, The Guardian, ESPN, NBC, and many others.

How I got my drone confiscated in Morocco (the most important thing you need to know about drones!)

Jan 24, 2020

David Williams

Dave Williams is an accomplished travel photographer, writer, and best-selling author from the UK. He is also a photography educator and published Aurora expert. Dave has traveled extensively in recent years, capturing stunning images from around the world in a modified van. His work has been featured in various publications and he has worked with notable brands such as Skoda, EE, Boeing, Huawei, Microsoft, BMW, Conde Nast, Electronic Arts, Discovery, BBC, The Guardian, ESPN, NBC, and many others.

Join the Discussion

Share on:

With drone photography, things right now are very fast-paced, both in the development of the tech and the implementation of the rules. There’s a lot I can tell you about drone photography. Overarching all of the creative elements the single, most important piece of advice I can give you is this:

Make sure you know the local drone laws, wherever you are and wherever you’re going!

As I mentioned, there’s a lot I can teach about drone photography, I’ve written a lot about it and I have a course live on KelbyOne all about it right now. The appeal of drone photography is huge. It’s been maximized by DJI, who are now the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer (true story) and camera manufacturer. Others such as Parrot and Yuneec are also cashing in on us photographers and our constant quest for new angles.

These new angles are the big appeal, and rightly so. Creatives have it embedded within them. Since our childhood, we have been scoping out birds-eye views. Think about it for a second, when we’re on a plane and we come into land we often stare out of the windows looking for a point of reference in order to see what is familiar to us from a new perspective, such as searching for our home or our favorite stadium, or simply a city skyline. Drones are here to stay. The rules are being implemented and enacted for everybody’s protection. But what does that actually mean for photographers?

We can and should make ourselves familiar with the drone laws and regulations everywhere we go to avoid embarrassing and potentially costly situations, just like my awkward and costly situation in Morocco!

Ok, here’s what happened:  I was in Portugal with some friends and we jumped on a little Embraer jet over to Marrakech, Morocco to saunter about the souks and capture some camels (photographically, of course.) On arriving in Marrakech airport a whole new experience greeted us – a security scanner on the exit. I’d never seen an x-ray machine on leaving an airport before, and to put some perspective on that I took 36 flights that year as a travel photographer. I was wondering why it was there and my inner monologue was working overdrive wondering if perhaps there was a drugs problem or they were maybe looking for organic matter like meat, but as we got closer and my friend went ahead of me it became clear.

My friend was ahead. Security opened his suitcase and they were very interested in his headphone case. They were checking that inside it was actually a set of headphones and whilst watching I realized that I had a very similar looking case but inside mine was a DJI Mavic. They wanted my drone and there was nothing I could do about it!

It should be obvious what happened next. They confiscated my drone! I was escorted to the customs office by a guard and I sat down at the desk of a very official-looking gentleman. He spoke only Arabic and French, so I had to make do with my schoolboy French to work out what was happening with my drone.

As my drone taken from me by the officer to my right, the chap at the desk had me sign a form (in French and Arabic) covered in his scrawling which essentially said they were keeping it and if I wanted it back when I left the country I could return to the customs office and pay a restoration fee. Here’s what that looked like:

This is the ‘official chap’ who took my drone and added it to the collection you see atop the filing cabinet. It was stored without the case.

My ‘receipt’ was presented to me, complete with the wrong passport number.

What I’m getting at here is that it is very important to know where you can fly your drone. It’s also important to know what the restrictions are including whether or not you can even take it into another country at all. You can find all the information about that here. What ended up happening to me isn’t something I want any of you to go through. I learned the hard way. I suffered a few days of stress and anxiety. I wondered whether or not I’d ever see my beloved Mavic again. When I left Morocco I paid the fee and got it back. If you were wondering, here’s what that looked like:

Stacked on all the shelves on both sides of the room area all the confiscated drones. I spent a good few minutes waiting for the customs officer to find my drone amongst the pile. Again, here is the link to the global drone laws, and don’t be put off, just be aware!

I’m Dave Williams and I’m new around here at DIYPhotography.net – thanks for having me. If you’d like to know who I am, there’s a little snippet right down below in the bottom to give you a glimpse.

Filed Under:

Tagged With:

Find this interesting? Share it with your friends!

David Williams

David Williams

Dave Williams is an accomplished travel photographer, writer, and best-selling author from the UK. He is also a photography educator and published Aurora expert. Dave has traveled extensively in recent years, capturing stunning images from around the world in a modified van. His work has been featured in various publications and he has worked with notable brands such as Skoda, EE, Boeing, Huawei, Microsoft, BMW, Conde Nast, Electronic Arts, Discovery, BBC, The Guardian, ESPN, NBC, and many others.

Join the Discussion

DIYP Comment Policy
Be nice, be on-topic, no personal information or flames.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

16 responses to “How I got my drone confiscated in Morocco (the most important thing you need to know about drones!)”

  1. Adam Avatar
    Adam

    It is VERY easy to find on the internet you can not fly a drone in Morocco. I think you shouldn’t call yourself a “travel photographer”, if you can’t do some search about local laws and policies when you travel abroad, sorry.

    1. Joe Avatar
      Joe

      Wow, big boy Adam is not entertained. Please share the minimum requirements to become a travel photographer by your standards. I believe nobody cares.
      Thanks!

      1. Zubair Hamed Avatar
        Zubair Hamed

        Although his tone leaves a lot to be desired, i’d have to agree with him. Drones are such a sensitive topic, it makes a lot of sense to make detailed research of country laws prior to bringing it alone. Especially since the laws are so damned volatile and changes so often :-[

  2. Adam Śmigielski Avatar
    Adam Śmigielski

    Dave Williams, it is VERY (!) easy to find on the internet you can not fly a drone in Morocco. I think you shouldn’t call yourself a “travel photographer”, if you can’t do some search about local laws and policies when you travel abroad, sorry. :-(

    1. John Aldred Avatar
      John Aldred

      Except he didn’t actually fly it. He never even mentioned that he intended to fly it in Morocco. :)

    2. Adam Śmigielski Avatar
      Adam Śmigielski

      John Aldred OK. I should write: it is VERY (!) easy to find on the internet it’s not a good idea to take your drone to Morocco because it will be confiscated at the airport. Drone pilots know there are restrictions about drones in some countries. Taking drone from Portugal to Morocco is (almost) like taking hash from the Netherlands to Indonesia ;-) :-P

    3. Ali Mckellar Avatar
      Ali Mckellar

      It doesn’t matter if he intended to fly it or not, Adam is absolutely spot on here. If you’re claiming to be a travel photographer and randomly decide to just saunter over to another country on a whim you at least know in advance what you’re (not) allowed to bring in to said country, otherwise, you take the 30 to 60 seconds to find out!

      Your own government’s website will most likely have a section about travelling to a Muslim country and a separate section on travelling with drones if not.

    4. John Aldred Avatar
      John Aldred

      I did not say otherwise (nor does the article). I was simply stating this was not about flying as was suggested. :)

  3. Jolyon Ralph Avatar
    Jolyon Ralph

    Was in Morocco in December, and yes I did my research first and didn’t take my drone!

    The scanning on exit seems ONLY to be looking for drones and nothing much else. They went through my camera gear asking “drone? drone?” Big signs up there saying drones not allowed. A real shame, it would have been amazing out there.

  4. Jolyon Ralph Avatar
    Jolyon Ralph

    I went to Morocco in December, I wanted to take my drone but I used a clever trick called searching the internet to find out in advance that I shouldn’t :)

  5. Jolyon Ralph Avatar
    Jolyon Ralph

    However… I took my drone to Madagascar last year even though the advice said not to. And I had no problems whatsoever. Even had a local police officer stood right next to me while I was flying it over a ruby mine – he was just excited to see what the realtime video looked like.

  6. Daris Fox Avatar
    Daris Fox

    It’s not as if DJI doesn’t have a forum dedicated to flying drones in other countries:

    https://forum.dji.com/forum.php?mod=forumdisplay&fid=130&filter=typeid&typeid=705

  7. devo1d Avatar
    devo1d

    Those scanners are part of a unified customs and security check for everyone entering the kingdom. They’re not only looking for drones – all incoming baggage has been scanned for controlled items since before I moved to Morocco over 15 years ago – weapons, contraband, large sums of currency, and taxable imports. I often see drones but I understand their use requires a permit. This is a country that, until quite recently, censured access to the satellite layer of Google Maps.

  8. JonSmeeth Avatar
    JonSmeeth

    Immigrations customs don’t give a hack which places are ok and which are forbidden. One can argue till the cows come home and they’ll not let you take it with you ?

  9. Fernando Avatar
    Fernando

    Hi.. how much did you pay for getting it back?.. I’m doing a trip around other countries too, I won’t bother paying so they can look after it while I’m in Morocco.

  10. Simone Avatar
    Simone

    I am heading to Morocco in 2021 and I’ll also be going to 12 other countries during that trip so I WILL have my drone on me and backpacking around Europe. I’d like to know how much the fee was to get your drone back as I will probably have to do this option. I’m not travelling to 13 countries and I’m allowed to use my drone in most of them so I’d love to know the fee please :)