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Can You Fly a Drone in Kauai?

“The Garden Isle” of Kauai in Hawaii earns that nickname due to the tropical rainforests that encompass the area. Other sites of note include the Sleeping Giant mountainous area, the Waimea Canyon, and the Na Pali Coast, often used for Hollywood blockbusters.

Could you film your own breathtaking footage of Kauai using your drone?

Drones are allowed in Kauai, but you must follow Hawaiian state and local drone laws, federal drone laws, and FAA guidelines.

Use a drone map to confirm restricted airspace areas such as state and national parks and airports. Avoid flying in those areas.

This guide will further explore using a drone in Kauai, including an overview of all the rules and some recommendations for places to fly.

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Can you fly a drone in Kauai?

The small island of Kauai, as a part of Hawaii, does permit drone flight. Pilots are subject to federal, state, and local laws (more on that to come).

Although Kauai measures only 552 square miles, there’s a lot packed on this small, cozy island, including cities and towns, airports like Lihue Airport, beaches, forest preserves such as Lihue-Koloa and Na Pali-Kona, wilderness preserves like Alaka’i, and state parks like Wailua River State Park, Koke’e State Park, and Ahukini Recreational Pier State Park.

When navigating a new place for the first time like Kauai, we can’t recommend enough using drone apps such as B4UFLY, OpenSky, AirMap, and DroneDeploy.

As many open spaces as this beautiful island affords you, just as many could be off-limits. A drone mapping app will tell you which areas constitute restricted airspace and which don’t.

Although some places such as airports, state parks, and military zones will always be off-limits to drone pilots, the Kauai government has the right to prohibit pilots from entering places that usually aren’t restricted. This can happen at any time.  

With a drone mapping app on your phone, you can always stay abreast of where you should fly versus where you shouldn’t and avoid fines and even imprisonment for illegally using your drone. 

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Federal, state, and local laws to remember when flying a drone in Kauai

You can have a ball using your drone in Kauai, and we want you to! That’s why you should brush up on these drone laws ahead of your trip.

The following collection of laws includes federal, state, and local regulations.

Drone pilots must have the appropriate license

Although Hawaii feels like its own universe, it’s still a part of the United States, which means all FAA guidelines stand.

Most importantly, you must have a license when flying a drone. If you’re doing it for fun, then you need a recreational license known as the TRUST certificate.

Commercial pilots must have a valid Remote Pilot Certificate.

The path to obtaining both licenses diverges considerably. You can take the TRUST exam free from the comfort of your home, as it’s offered online by the FAA.

The test includes fewer than 30 questions. You can earn a perfect score since you’ll see wrong answers as you go through and can change them if you wish.

You’ll have to visit an FAA testing center to take the Part 107 exam, as it’s administered offline. The test has 60 questions, and you can’t see any wrong answers while completing the exam. You also have to pay to take the Part 107 exam.

You’ll need to answer 70 percent of the questions correctly to pass.

Then, you can fly commercially for the next two years using your Remote Pilot Certificate. When the license nearly expires, recertify for free by taking a short online FAA exam.

TRUST certificate holders don’t have to worry about drone license expiry, as yours is good for life.

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You must register your drone if it weighs more than 0.55 pounds

How much does your drone weigh? If it’s 0.55 pounds or over, you must go through the FAA to register it. Lighter drones don’t require registration.

Do not fly your drone in a state park

As we discussed in our post about Hawaii drone laws, the Division of State Parks and the Department of Land and Natural Resources have a local law prohibiting drone pilots from operating a UAV within Hawaii’s state parks.

That includes the aforementioned Kauai state parks and all other state parks in this beautiful state.

» MORE: Drone Laws in Hawaii

Always keep your drone within your visual line of sight

Even in areas where you can legally fly a drone like in Kauai, the activity can quickly turn illegal if your drone is outside of your visual line of sight.

You can’t control your drone at that distance, which makes it a flight risk.

Don’t use your drone when under the influence of drugs or alcohol

You’re also a flight risk if flying unmanned aircraft when under the influence of substances like drugs and/or alcohol. You need a clear head to fly, so if you’re not feeling up to it, don’t launch your UAV!

Don’t fly a drone within five miles of an airport

Whether it’s Lihue Airport in Kauai or any other airport in Hawaii, your drone cannot legally fly closer than five miles. You could risk interrupting manned aircraft flights if you’re too near an airport.

Fly no higher than 400 feet

Across the US, drones have an altitude cap of 400 feet. Don’t get too caught up taking aerial shots of Kauai!

Don’t operate your drone in restricted airspace

Restricted airspace is restricted for a reason: it’s not safe for your drone to be there.

Drones from DJI and other manufacturers might automatically ground you when you venture into restricted airspace, but you should still turn around immediately even if your drone only gives you a warning.  

Don’t fly in inclement weather

Hawaii’s weather is almost always perfect, but when it’s not, you’re prohibited from flying your drone in poor conditions.

From low visibility due to fog to wind and rain, wait until a sunnier day. You know it’ll be right around the corner!

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Where are the best places to fly a drone in Kauai?

You’ve finally arrived in beautiful Hawaii, and you’re in love. You’ve unpacked your drone, and you’re eager to take it for a spin around Kauai. Where can you fly?

Add the following destinations to your itinerary!

Waimea Canyon

On Kauai’s southwestern side, you’ll find “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” which is none other than Waimea Canyon.

The 14-mile canyon goes well over 3,600 feet deep. You can access the canyon via the parking lot without paying to get on the grounds. The lookout makes for a nice place to use your drone.

Alternately, you can venture out to Highway 550, park on the side of the road, and launch your drone to capture some stunning footage.

Try to plan your flight around noontime. By then, the sun’s angle is 90 degrees, which will prevent an encompassing shadow from taking over Waimea Canyon and ruining your drone footage.

From either the lookout or Highway 550, you’ll be near Waimea Canyon National Park, where you cannot fly your drone. Just an FYI!

Hanalei Beach

On the opposite side of the island, Hanalei Beach awaits you. This north shore spot includes the town of Hanalei and often attracts surfers and swimmers. Hikers also flock to Hanalei Beach for its hiking trails.

The surfers will venture out bright and early to ride the calmer waves, but if you’re there with your drone the moment the sun goes up, you might be able to avoid bigger crowds and get some footage of the empty beach.

Should you miss the early morning hours, another good time to fly is later in the day, closer to sunset. Avoid going in the middle of the day, as the crowds will make using your drone quite dicey.

Conclusion

Kauai is one of the most beautiful islands in Hawaii, and even better, you can use a drone here.

However, you’re to stay out of restricted airspace such as national parks, state parks, and airports, which does limit where you can fly.

If you’re not sure whether you’re allowed in a part of Kauai, you should use a drone mapping app to confirm the area’s status. That’s the best way to fly safely and avoid any rule violations!