6.1. Legal payload restrictions

In most countries drones are not allowed to carry hazardous materials. A hazardous material is an item or agent which has the potential to cause harm to humans, animals, or the environment, either by itself or through interaction with other factors.

Senior management should sign-off on the decision to fly new types of payloads. In the context of this section cameras are a type of payload. Other common payloads are sensors used in all kinds of inspection or survey work.

Are seeds of GMO plants hazardous material? What is the risk of them being carried by wind to a neighbor’s field? No easy answers and any answer is likely not valid in other countries or under slightly different circumstances.


  1. Uncertainty about the legality of a payload type can lead to investments in drones which ultimately cannot be used for their intended purpose or to delays.
  2. Hazardous materials further increase risks of injuries, damages and fines in case of accidents.

Audit Steps

  1. Understand the legal requirements for handling specific payloads with drones.
  2. Review internal guidelines for operational restrictions for specific payload types.
  3. Interview pilots and flightcrews about past incidents related to handling specific payloads.
  4. Review mission logs and validate compliance with internal and external restrictions.


drone audit program index