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Can You Fly a Drone in Honolulu?

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Our world is full of natural wonders, and one that always captivates the senses is Honolulu. You may dream of flying your drone through this Hawaiian paradise, capturing images and videos of sun-drenched beaches, palm-lined islands, and panoramas of stunning vistas.

Are drones allowed in Honolulu?

You can fly a drone in Honolulu but not in any of its state parks, including Diamond Head State Monument per rules from the Department of Land and Natural Resources. While flying elsewhere in Honolulu, you’re expected to follow FAA drone laws.

Ahead, we’ll dig a lot deeper into the drone laws and regulations in Honolulu and greater Hawaii.

We’ll even recommend some breathtaking places to launch your drone in Honolulu, so make sure you don’t miss it!

Can you fly a drone in Honolulu? #

Commercial and recreational pilots alike will be thrilled to learn that yes, indeed, you can fly a drone in Honolulu and Hawaii as a whole, including Waikiki. .

Hawaii does have some state and local drone laws, which we discussed in our post on Hawaii drone rules, but they’re few and far between.

» MORE: Drone Laws in Hawaii

The state law, at least for the purposes of commercial pilots, mostly exists to reinforce federal drone laws as established by the United States government and the FAA.

As for the local law? That comes courtesy of the Department of Land and Natural Resources and its Division of State Parks.

We touched on that law in the intro, but let’s expand upon it now. Throughout Hawaii, drones are prohibited in state parks, so that would go for Honolulu as well.

In Honolulu specifically, Iolani Palace State Monument and Diamond Head State Monument are both off-limits. The Sand Island State Recreation Area on nearby Sand Island would similarly outlaw drone pilots.

You can check out the Division of State Parks’ website here, which includes a map of Hawaii’s different islands and the state parks in each.

If you’re planning on making Honolulu one stop of many on your Hawaiian vacation, then a resource like that is a must.

Hawaii drone laws to follow #

Even though you have drone flight freedoms in Honolulu, you’re still expected to obey Hawaii’s federal, state, and local laws at all times. Here’s a refresher on those laws ahead of your tropical vacation.

You must have a drone license #

Drone pilots of all nature must be licensed through the FAA before flying, not after.

If you’re a recreational pilot or a hobbyist, then the license you need is called the TRUST license.

The acronym stands for The Recreational UAS Safety Test, which is the name of the FAA exam that you have to pass to earn your license.

This exam isn’t considered overly difficult to ace, as it consists of fewer than 30 questions that are all multiple-choice. The test is done online, and you can go back and change wrong answers. Your TRUST license, when issued to you, never expires!

What if you’re a commercial pilot looking to earn an income with your drone? Then you need to take the FAA’s commercial exam, the Part 107 test.

This is no walk in the park, especially in comparison to the TRUST exam. The Part 107 test is taken at an FAA testing center, has no online components, and provides no intel about right or wrong answers as you go along.

You also have to pay for each test attempt, whereas the TRUST exam is free.

Should you answer 70 percent of the questions on the Part 107 exam correctly, then you’ll receive your license, which is known as the Remote Pilot Certificate.

The Remote Pilot Certificate does expire, but you’ll get two years with the license first.

The FAA now allows commercial pilots to recertify for free online by passing a short exam. You have to answer all the questions correctly, but wrong answers are displayed and changeable. 

You must register your drone #

Does your drone weigh 250 grams or 0.55 pounds? Some toy drones might not, but for every other drone, you need to register it through the FAA before you plan on flying in Honolulu or elsewhere in the US.

It only costs $5 to register your drone, and then it’s good to fly for the next three years. Keep in mind that if you use the same drone three years from now that you’ll have to register it again.

You also have to register any new drones you buy in the interim that exceed the weight limit.

Don’t surpass altitudes of 400 feet #

Throughout the US–so this goes for Hawaii as well–the FAA altitude imposition on drone pilots is no higher than 400 feet.

Only fly in clear weather #

Honolulu and Hawaii in general are known for clear, gorgeous weather, but when Mother Nature turns ugly, know when to call it a day.

In overly windy conditions, rain, fog, or snow (which can happen atop some of Hawaii’s greatest mountainous peaks), do not operate your drone. It’s too dangerous, both for yourself and anyone else around you.

Do not use your drone when under the influence #

The FAA also prohibits drone pilots from taking to the skies when in any way under the influence of substances. Those substances can include drugs, alcohol, or both.

If you feel like you’re not mentally or physically up to the task of flying a drone, then don’t. Tomorrow is always another day.

Avoid flying over large groups #

US federal drone law bars most types of drones from flying over large groups for both their safety and privacy according to the Operations Over People law.

If your drone is under 0.55 pounds, then it’s a Category 1 drone and can fly over people, but it’s still not the best thing to do.

Many people are dubious of drones, and if you interrupt their day-to-day lives and especially their vacations too much with your UAV, someone could call the cops on you, getting you into unnecessary trouble.

Avoid flying over moving vehicles #

The Operations over Moving Vehicles law by the FAA doesn’t allow pilots to fly over moving vehicles.

If you know the people in a vehicle and have their consent, then you can fly over them provided the vehicle stays within a restricted or closed-access site, but the vehicle can’t be in motion when your drone is.

Stay within five miles of Hawaiian airports #

Hawaii’s biggest airport is the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, and it just so happens to be located in Honolulu.

Of course, the state has other airports as well, from Kona International Airport to Lihue Airport, Hilo International Airport, and Lanai Airport. When flying near any of these airports, your drone should stay a good five feet away.

Always operate your drone in your visual line of sight #

It’s so easy to get lost in the beauty of Honolulu, but make sure you don’t lose your drone in the process.

Once your drone begins drifting off beyond your visual line of sight, you’re in dicey legal territory if you continue flying it. Kindly bring the drone back to you so you don’t end up going home empty-handed or facing penalties!

Where to fly your drone in Honolulu #

Honolulu, as Hawaii’s state capital, is quite vast, encompassing 68.4 square miles. There’s plenty of explore, almost too much, so where do you start?

Here are some drone-friendly locations to add to your vacation itinerary.

» Read More: Can You Fly a Drone in Oahu?

Waikiki Beach #

One of the most famous beaches in Honolulu by far is Waikiki Beach, which features Diamond Head in the background, endless miles of picture-perfect blue water, and white sands that go on as far as the eye can see.

While the beach welcomes drone pilots, keep in mind what a social and tourist hub that Waikiki as a whole is. The neighborhood has high-rise hotels, upscale boutiques, and a vibrant social scene.

You know the drill then. Limit your drone operations near people. Perhaps wake up early one morning as the sun rises so you can get some shots before the crowds gather.

Lanikai Beach #

In nearby Kailua (which is on Oahu’s coast) is Lanikai Beach. The locals also call it Ka’ohao Beach, which is named after the community of Ka’ohao.

Lanikai Beach has the same stunning natural wonders as Waikiki Beach but doesn’t attract quite the same levels of massive crowds. It’s been called the most beautiful beach in Oahu by some, which is reason enough to explore it!

Sunset Beach Park #

A small trip from Honolulu to Pupukea will land you at Sunset Beach Park on Oahu’s North Shore.

Sunset Beach Park is two miles and while it doesn’t contain pristine white sand, it’s still an elegant backdrop for drone photography and videography.

In the winter, this park attracts big crowds, as the waves that swell during the so-called offseason (not like Hawaii really has one of those) are gargantuan. Plan for less space if using your drone around that time.

Waimanalo Bay Beach Park #

Off the beaten path, Waimanalo Bay Beach Park doesn’t attract hordes of tourists, which is sure to make your drone operations easier. The soft, white sands and blue waters here won’t disappoint either.

You’re also within walking distance of Bellows Beach Park, which, when combined with Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, is three miles of mostly empty Hawaiian wonder.

Ko Olina Lagoons #

Ko Olina has four lagoons in all that comprise over 640 acres. Over a mile of pathways connect you from one lagoon to another.

While having four lagoons available to you is awesome, keep in mind that the lagoons do attract large numbers of people, and the parking in the area is only available on a first-come, first-served basis.

In other words, don’t wait long to get here! 

If Honolulu is on your travel list as a drone pilot, you’ll be pleased as punch to learn that you can fly here except in state parks.

While we encourage you to enjoy and explore your freedoms to the fullest, always do so within the parameters set by federal, state, and local laws! 


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