Well at the moment there are no drone specific laws in Ghana I have however been informed that there is a drone specific law in the pipeline. Does this mean that anyone can purchase and fly a drone in Ghana for private or commercial purposes? The answer is yes and no. As the saying goes, the law is neither black nor white. It is grey.

YES anyone can purchase and fly a drone because unlike other countries where drone laws regulate drone purchase and flying, no one can point to a drone specific law that stops you from purchasing a drone and flying it in Ghana.

On the other hand, NO because even though there are no specific drone laws in Ghana you may be caught by other existing laws. For example per Section 3(e) of the Ghana Civil Aviation Act, 2004 (ACT 678) one of the functions of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority is the taking of security measures to safeguard air transport among others. Section 24 of ACT 678 prohibits dangerous flying and creates a criminal offence for dangerous flying. Examining just these two provisions in the law, it should not be difficult for the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority to cause the arrest of a drone pilot/operator whose flying compromises the safety of air transport in Ghana as that would be tantamount to dangerous flying in my view. Depending on your location, you could be entering Ghana’s airspace if you fly above the height of the average fence wall and therefore subject to many more aviation related laws.

ACT 678 does not define an aircraft. I can fathom some arguing that a drone is not an aircraft within the meaning of ACT 678. Consequently, it ought not to be possible to cause the arrest and prosecution of a drone pilot under ACT 678. Well, it may be so but it is instructive to note that currently the preferred method for statutory interpretation in Ghana is the Modern Purposive Approach. With this approach, I can see the Courts interpreting an aircraft in ACT 678 to include drones. Aside from that, an aircraft is commonly defined as an aero plane, helicopter or any other machine capable of flight. With the preferred mode of interpretation and the definition of an aircraft I am fortified in stating that a drone pilot may be culpable under ACT 678. The first drone I purchased had a bold inscription on the box that read “This is not a toy. It is an aircraft”.

Having  examined the mode of communication between the drone and its operating device (the radio controller), I would not be surprised if a drone pilot could also be in breach of Regulations 65 to 70 of the National Communications Authority Legislative Instrument L.I. 1991 of 2011.

As a drone pilot myself, I sum up by saying ,buy your drone, fly at low altitudes and follow international best practices while flying in Ghana. Take note that flying over a military zone or installation or a national security asset is absolutely prohibited. A couple of drone pilots have been tracked down and arrested for flying in and over such prohibited areas.

Brief background of drones

The concept of drones is not new. There were conceptual drone drawings and designs as far back as the time of Leonardo da Vinci. Drones however gained popularity following its militarized adaptation and use in various wars.

When the military began using drones, they referred to them as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). A personal favourite was the predator UAV. These UAVs were primarily for reconnaissance and surveillance. The UAVs were not armed. The term drone caught on because of the primary functions of reconnaissance and surveillance of the UAV and also the lack of firepower. A drone before its current meaning was “a male honey bee” characterised by its inability to sting because it does not have a stinger/firepower which the female honey bee has.

With the dire desire to reduce prisoners of war and soldier casualties these UAVs were armed to discharge munitions (i.e. to sting). UAVs which could discharge munitions became known as Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV). These were typically remotely controlled far away from the warzone and in some cases across continents. In modern times however, whether UAVs or UCAVs they are simply referred to as drones.

Drones have now been made for private, commercial, professional and enthusiasts civilian use. As a result, various countries are racing to pass laws to regulate drones. In civilian terminology, whether it is a Quadcopter, Hexacopter or an Octocopter capable of autonomous flight or not, they are also referred to as a drones.