Ethiopia - do NOT take your drone

Can you take your drone to Ethiopia and fly? Well, my experiences are detailed below, but the simple answer would appear to be NO, don’t even think about it.

Initially all was well. There’s almost no information available, though a pilot on MavicPlilots has successfully used his drone in Dec 2016. I checked with the Ethiopian Embassy in London, which never replied.

It wasn’t possible to fly at the Royal Enclosure in Gondar - apparently some form of permit was needed, but I got the impression this was just a reaction to something new, and on a different day, with a different official in charge, the answer could well have been different. Shame, as it was a good aerial photo opportunity.

Next it was the Simien Mountains. Stunning scenery, no problems flying, except… The Simien are volcanic, and the rock causes lots of magnetic interference. Lots of compass recalibration was needed, and bare rock avoided for take-off spots. On the summit of Ras Dashen, Ethiopia’s highest peak, there was no chance - the Mavic refused to fly because of the strong magnetic fields.

At Lalibela, the rock-hewn churches, administered by UNESCO, are a no-no. You can get a permit there, but I was quoted $1,000 - I think they just make a number up. Bear in mind, with the exception of St George’s church, UNESCO has erected the most hideous roofs over the churches (for protection), unless you like aerial views of warehouses there’s no point in photos from above anyway. On the positive side, hotels and restaurants were all happy for me to fly.

Then it all went wrong. On the internal flight (bear in mind I’d already taken 3 other internal flights) back to Addis, the security scan spotted electronics and a search had my Mavic confiscated. It’s a long, quite painful story of bureaucracy, but essentially my drone was flown back, on the same flight as me, to Addis, where paperwork was completed, and I was allowed to reclaim it from customs later that day and was escorted through airport formalities to catch my international flight home - and was given my Mavic back once I was fully airside. There were at least 3 other Mavic Pros on the customs office, a Phantom and goodness only knows what else. Everybody I spoke to gave a different reason for the “problem” - you need a permit, drones are illegal, there’s been a drone attack, etc - I’ve no idea what the real reason was. To be fair, while the admin was in a state of chaos, all the officials were actually very nice.

I did suggest posting some official information somewhere would be helpful, but I didn’t want to labour any points and further risk not getting my Mavic back.

So, my recommendation - don’t take your drone to Ethiopia

FFS… why do companies do this? Councils seem to be the worst, it’s just common courtesy to reply isn’t it? I can’t imagine where all these emails simply disappear to :frowning:

Well, that’s what I learnt today!

I’ve learnt something new nearly every day for about a week now, mainly from this site too :rofl:

I might have actually cried :cry:

Duly noted Colin, thanks for sharing the experience :+1:

The mag interference would have put me off straight away :worried: