Drone in Hong Kong Guide

Your guide to working with drones in Hong Kong
March 29, 2023

A general classification for drones

In the past decade, the word drone has grown in popularity, especially through the appearance of small drone toys.

The word refers to an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV meaning flying vehicles that don't have drivers.

This refers both to remote controlled flying vehicles and automated flights.

While we imagine a drone to be a small, fun toy, the original word UAV refers to something more serious that is used in warfare.

Throughout the twentieth century, countries focused on the development of drones for use in a military airbase.

As components got smaller, so did these drones, they started being used for aerial photography before getting to really small and compact toys.

The official classification ranks them in 5 groups depending on their weight.

We can however simplify the classification in three large groups.

Small drones

Photo of a small drone above a forest

A Small unmanned aircraft is what the public is most familiar with, working with small batteries, they often weight less than 1 kilogram and run for a couple of minutes, just enough to enjoy flying it.

Some more advanced ones are equipped with cameras for aerial photography.

Other types are built for racing and come equipped with a live camera feed.

Commercial drones

Photo of a commercial drone in the sky

This next category is built for specific business purposes and provides a lot of very helpful features.

Farmers use them to map their fields, urban designers can gain new perspectives, firefighters use them to fight fires, and rescue operations can also use them to locate survivors and assess the occurred damages.

These are often larger and might have more than 4 propellers to provide more stability and thrust.

Such drones are subject to drone laws and Singapore drone laws have their own specificities.

As a rule of thumb, it's a good idea to know the drone regulations of the area you're flying in, these are often country and city specific.

Other types are built like wings for better autonomy.

In all cases, these require larger budgets and serve specific functions by gaining a new aerial perspective on the situation.

We'll focus on these two types as they cover the general public use cases.

Unmanned Aircraft or UAVs

Photo of a military drone (UAV) taking off

This category is very specific and applies to the aviation industry.

We won't focus on this category but keep in mind they do exist and are mainly used for reconnaissance purposes.

Most of the time, an unmanned aircraft is operated remotely by a drone pilot on the ground.

Commercial drone services

Drones have allowed several sectors to gain the benefits of flight.

These marvels' main feature is their ability for stationary flight.

Hovering over a structure helps the pilot take time to analyze the situation and make decisions by directly focusing on what he's seeing.

One very interesting use case of drones is in power grids.

Maintenance teams have started using them to do predictive maintenance, meaning they use drones to fly over their infrastructure and note any small problem they notice.

These are especially useful in remote or difficult to reach areas like a barrage or in a dense forest where special equipment would be required.

Flying drones regulations and Hong Kong drone laws

Let's do a quick overview of the most important rules:

  • You will need to register and label your drone (see paragraph below for instructions) if it weights more than 250g.
  • You should fly below the maximum flying altitude of 90 meters (300 feet). 
  • Hong Kong is quite drone-friendly
  • The city is very dense, so be careful when flying drones.

If you come to Hong Kong with your drone and aren't sure whether or not to register it, do make sure to declare it when arriving at the airport.

The CAD or Civil Aviation Department is responsible for regulating drones in the city.

Local aviation authorities shouldn't be a problem if you use your drone within the 90 meters limit, keep a visual contact with it and avoid airports and crowds.

Here are a few general rules to follow:

  • Fly below 90 meters (300 feet)
  • Don't fly at night
  • Maintain visual contact
  • Stay away from crowds (as population can be very dense, you risk injuring someone, you would be held responsible!)
  • Don't fly near airports, helipads, busy airspaces, or other dangerous places.
  • Make sure to check the local aviation authority's website for the latest regulations.

These should keep you safe while flying.

Do I need a permit to fly drones ?

The only cases where you would need a permit in Hong Kong is if your drone is heavier than 7 kilograms or if you intend to fly it professionally.

If that's the case you'll need to submit an application to the Civil Aviation Department for approval.

Commercial purposes will also require you to undergo training to join the ranks of remote pilots.

How do I register and label my drone ?

Registering your drone can be done online, on the web or via the government's application.

The process is easy and shouldn't be much of a hassle.

  1. Register on the platform and upload the required documents.
  2. Once you receive the registration label, affix the registration label properly on your drone, on the body, in a clearly identifiable way, flat if possible.
  3. Take a picture of your drone with the label on it.
  4. Login to your eSUA account.
  5. Enter the verification code that came with the label package
  6. Upload the verification photo
  7. Done!

Be careful what you bring onboard !

As drones come in all shapes and sizes, so do their batteries.

You can't bring anything in Hong Kong, so be careful, and take the appropriate measures.

  • You can bring batteries smaller than 160 Wh in a carry-on bag, or in a checked-in baggage.
  • Attached batteries of less than 160 Wh can br checked-in just fine, if detached, you can bring up to 20 small batteries of less than 100 Wh via Cary-on and up to 2 medium sized batteries between 100 and 160 Wh via Carry-on.
  • Large batteries of more than 160 Wh cannot be carried on board, and cannot be checked in.

Note that these rules can change depending on the airline you choose, make sure to check the given guidelines before flying.

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