Drones on your Hawaii vacation? Yes, but…

Yes, you are welcome to bring your recreational unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, along on your Hawaii vacation. Its natural beauty makes it an obvious location to take advantage of drones in Hawaii.

The use of drones for both recreational and commercial purposes has grown rapidly in recent years. The affordability and user-friendly technology of the devices has created a massive global community of enthusiasts and professionals. Drones are being put to use not only for fun, but for many and varied commercial purposes all over the world.

The spectacular ongoing volcanic activity at Kilauea Volcano
on Hawaii Island beckons amateur and professional camera people, especially. However, airspace in the affected area is severely restricted to qualified and authorized professional, commercial and military pilots only.

Hawaii-raised professional photographer and and videographer Pat Myers became interested in drone technology while working with big wave surfing icon Mark Healy. “I was first introduced to aerial photography and video in 2013 when I was working with Quiksilver,” he says.

“I was working with Mark, who had a friend that had a drone and who needed someone to operate the camera gimbel while he operated the drone. I was always trying to find a creative, alternate angle, and it was then that I knew the aerials were going to be a game changer for so many visual avenues.”

A permit is not required for recreational drone usage in the state of Hawaii. However, there are many restricted and prohibited areas for drone use. A permit is required for commercial drone use in the state. All recreational and commercial drones in Hawaii must be registered with the FAA, as mandated by federal law. Recreational drones are defined as weighing under 55lbs.

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As for commercial usage, Myers says, “I was required to get my 107 remote pilot license from the FAA, which allows a pilot to use drone media for commercial purposes. The permits are usually handled by the clients and location scouts, or one can personally contact the local Air Traffic control to get permission to fly within a controlled air space for specific reasons.”

From home videos to surf flicks, from real estate to retail advertising, video and images from drones have become an industry standard. Essentially a military technology, the strategic, tactical and practical applications of drones and the images they provide are undeniable.

“Some advice I would give to Hawaii visitors would to be conscious and courteous. It is illegal to fly within national parks and over people in public,” says Myers. “The drones are fun, and they are a great way to capture memories of a vacation. But they can also be an annoyance to people that might find them invasive. There is an FAA app called b4ufly, which is a great resource to learn about air space classes and restricted areas.”

Drone allow relatively access to dangerous locations. Photo courtesy US Geological Survey

Drone use areas are cautionary, restricted, or prohibited in the state of Hawaii. Most populated areas are restricted. This means you’ll need to clear a variety of legal hurdles to operate your drone in such locations. You can’t just launch a drone over Waikiki Beach, for instance.

Federal fines for recreational violations can reach $27,500. Commercial violations can cost up to $250,000. Drone use in Hawaii near airports, military installations, prisons, and crisis and disaster areas are prohibited for reasons that should be obvious to anyone smart enough to operate a drone in the first place.

The least restricted, cautionary areas for recreational drone use are in remote areas of every Hawaiian island. For the recreational drone enthusiast, this shouldn’t pose much of a problem. Hawaii’s remote areas are among the most beautiful locales in all the world.

For more information on Hawaii’s FAA drone usage rules, regulations and laws, click here.