What Does the Law Say about drones in Hawaii?

Drones in Hawaii are considered to be unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and are allowed in the islands for recreational use without a permit.  However, there are restrictions. For example, it must be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and must abide by certain restrictions.  Certain areas like the Kilauea Volcano are off limits. Only professional and military pilots are allowed to fly above this area. Other areas, like Waikiki Beach, are off limits.  There’s actually an app that you can get for it, I think it’s the FAA drone app, that outlines off limit zones. In summary, drones are allowed, but with restrictions. Make sure you get up to speed on drone legislation in the islands before you go, or risk seizure of your drone.

N580HA Boeing 767-33A Hawaiian Airlines by 34128007@N04 is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original.

Where and When you can Fly

Like I mentioned, drones in Hawaii come with rules and regulations. Drone pilots aren’t allowed to fly over the military bases. We have many of them here, and they are fairly large in size. Be sure you are aware of the air boundaries for these. You could get in serious trouble and they will seize your drone if they catch you. Downloading the FAA application on your iPhone or Android is useful for determining these boundaries. There are also certain beaches that are off limits, like Waikiki. Another general rule of thumb is that flying below 250’ above ground is off limits, as mandated by the FAA. That’s still considered private property and you’ll have to consult the owner before flying in that area.

avoid crowds in Hawaii

Tourists atop Diamond Head pillbox hike overlooking Kapiolani Park and Waikiki
. . . . aaahhh TOURISTS . . . . by Prayitno / Thank you for (12 millions +) view is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original

Drone Requirements

There are certain requirements you need to meet to identify your drone to the FAA. For example, you need to label your drone with the registration number assigned to you after registering your drone with the FAA. My boyfriend who brought his drone to Hawaii during Christmas time, made sure to do his research before flying. He had to register it with the FAA and write his identification number, similar to a driver’s license number, in big font on the drone. He physically put it on there in sharpie, just to be safe. We avoided flying in state parks, and were cautious to fly over private property, staying above the 400’ just to be safe.

Arriving to Honolulu by 92496162@N08 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original.

Do People Like Drones in Hawaii?  

People don’t like drones in Hawaii. Private property owners feel very uncomfortable when drones fly above their homes and they are within seeing distance or earshot of them. It can be uncomfortable to be under surveillance from someone you don’t know. This is why you need to be cautious when flying your drone. People in general aren’t a fan of them. I suspect you would feel this sentiment in any packed, high density area, like New York City for example. People are also wary of the repercussions of a drone crashing into a crowd of people. I would not want to be cut up by one of those propellers. Although small, I’m sure they could do some damage.

fishing! by Mark is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original.