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Can You Fly a Drone in Hong Kong?

According to statistics from Worlddata[1] Hong Kong attracted 55.91 million tourists who spent $32.7 billion. You would also love to visit this hotspot, but you’d want to bring your drone.

Can you fly a drone in Hong King?

Drones are welcome in Hong Kong, but pilots are required to follow Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department rules. You’ll likely have to register your drone, and flights are not permitted after sundown.

There are a lot more rules than merely those, of course. We’ll lay them all out for you ahead so you can enjoy a fruitful time in Hong Kong with your drone. Don’t miss it!

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Which agency regulates drones in Hong Kong?

We talk a lot about the FAA on this blog, but that agency’s rules only apply when operating a drone in the United States. As soon as you leave the country, you’ll have to follow the rules of a different agency.

In Hong Kong, it’s the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department or HKCAD[2], which has headquarters at Hong Kong International Airport.

HKCAD oversees air traffic control, communicating across the Hong Kong Flight Information Region to ensure that all flights–manned and unmanned–occur successfully.

The HKCAD must report to the Hong Kong Government and the Transport and Logistics Bureau.

Can you fly a drone in Hong Kong?

You’ll follow HKCAD rules for the entirety of the time you’re in Hong Kong, but the organization does not ban drones outright.

Hong Kong

Far from it! You’ll experience immense flight freedoms during your time in Hong Kong, within reason, of course.

Perhaps you wish to explore beautiful Lamma Island, which is known for its fishing villages.  You can take amazing overhead footage of the island that will surely make your friends back home jealous.

If you appreciate mountainous regions, Mount Johnston links to Ap Lei Pai. These mountains regularly attract hikers, so you’ll have to keep your distance, but you can also see amazing views of the Aberdeen Channel and maybe spot a yacht or two casually floating by.

Braemar Hill will let you reach Victoria Harbor and the CBD for city views you’ll adore. You’ll be able to drink in Hong Kong’s skyline from a unique vantage point, taking footage without getting in the way of civilians. It’s a win-win.

Tai Tam Reservoirs are another excellent place to fly, as these reservoirs date back to the 19th century. The Edwardian architecture here is sure to impress, as will the plunging, rushing waters.

Those are just some examples of places you can explore with your drone throughout Hong Kong. This part of China is very much worth visiting, and inexpensive drones in the region have helped spread the hobby.  

Drone flight rules in Hong Kong

For the rest of this article, we’ll discuss Hong Kong’s drone laws so you can fly according to the parameters set by the HKCAD.

You will likely have to permit and register your drone

In Hong Kong, whether you have to permit and register your drone comes down to two factors, whether you’re a commercial vs. recreational pilot and how much your drone weighs.

Drones are divided into three classes or categories: Category AI, Category A2, and Category B.

Category A1 drones are under 250 grams and don’t require a permit or registration.

Category A2 drones are over 250 grams but under seven kilograms and mandate a permit and registration. Category B drones are heavier than seven kilograms and need a permit and registration.

To apply for a permit and register your drone, you’ll need an active account on the Electronic Portal for Small Unmanned Aircraft or eSUA website (link).

Once you have your certificate of airworthiness and certificate of registration from HKCAD, you still need to request permission to fly on the eSUA website via an application.

The Communication Authority will either approve or deny your request.

Commercial pilots must include a procedural operations manual

Before you take off and earn cash with your commercial drone in Hong Kong, make sure you follow all the protocols first.

For instance, commercial pilots have to put together an operations manual that includes all drone flight procedures. You’ll do this while submitting your application for permission to fly, as the HKCAD must review this documentation to decide whether to approve your form.

Commercial pilots must be insured

Many parts of the world insist that commercial pilots have substantial drone insurance to prevent liabilities, and in Hong Kong, it’s no different.

Commercial pilots must keep accurate flight records

There’s one more special rule for commercial pilots flying in Hong Kong: maintaining flight records ahead of each subsequent flight. The HKCAD may ask to see these records, so don’t let them lapse.

You cannot fly a drone at night

If you were hoping to see the glimmering seas or the stunning Hong Kong skyline come alive at night, you’ll have to do so without your drone in tow. Once the sun sets, continuing to use your drone in Hong Kong is illegal.

Some exceptions may be made, such as for lighted drones, but as a rule, it’s better not to chance it.

Your altitude limit is 90 meters

The 400-foot altitude standard you’re used to when flying your drone in the US does not apply in Hong Kong. Instead, you’re capped at 90 meters, approximately 295 feet.

That’s quite a bit less altitude than usual, so make sure you use your drone accordingly.

Never use your drone for delivery purposes

In Hong Kong, a pilot can deliver something by drone by picking up and then dropping any object. This is illegal, so avoid carrying items with your drone so you can stay on the right side of the law.

You must have the permission of the property owner or landowner to use your drone

Will you fly over private property with your drone? You can’t just venture out into the great unknown and hope it works out okay.

If you’re on someone else’s property–be that land or residential property–you need to contact that property owner.

Only if they permit it are you allowed to be there with your drone. If they tell you to scram, you’ll have to find another place to fly.

Keep your distance from crowds

Hong Kong is very crowded, so the HKCAD wants you to keep at least 50 meters from people. That’s only 164 feet, which isn’t a ton of space but does grant you enough leeway.

Nathan Road, Hong Kong.

If you have others participating in your drone project, you can fly closer, but only around those people.

You cannot fly your drone over other people’s heads, so don’t try!

Your drone has to be within your visual line of sight

In Hong Kong, flying your drone so remotely that you can’t see it anymore is illegal. Keep your drone within your visual line of sight when it’s in the sky.

You cannot fly closer than 3 kilometers to an airport

Hong Kong has several airports. If your flight route has you passing any of them, make sure you stay at least 3 kilometers away. That’s approximately 1.87 miles.

Keep your drone away from moving vehicles

The 50-meter limit from people also applies to structures, vessels, and vehicles to limit property damage.

Don’t get too close to some areas

When using your drone on the North Lantau coast, Tsing Yi Island, Tsuen Wan, Tai Lam Chung, Victoria Harbor, and Shek Long, do not fly any closer than 5 kilometers.

Hong Kong is one of the world’s premier tourist destinations. Drone pilots also love visiting since they can launch into the skies throughout much of Hong Kong.

Always keep the above HKCAD rules in mind, as facing legal implications in another part of the world is always a huge headache. Happy flying!

1. Worlddata (link)
2. Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department (link)