A Complete Guide to Drones in Tonga
An aerial perspective of Tonga’s amazing coastal landscapes makes an incredible addition to your travel photos but using a drone in Tonga involves jumping through a few hurdles first. In Tonga, it is illegal to fly a non-registered drone. After seeing the time-consuming process for registration for drones in Tonga, you might want to consider whether taking a drone to Tonga is really worth it. In this guide, we go over how to obtain a drone permit, as well as the rules for flying a drone in Tonga.
Can You Take Your Drone to Tonga?
Note that you may want to pack your drone in your carry-on luggage, rather than checking it in, as airlines are usually only liable for up to a certain amount of goods per person; i.e. less than what a drone usually costs. What’s more, lithium-ion batteries are not permitted in checked-in luggage, as they are classed as “dangerous goods”. You should, therefore, at least pack your drone batteries in your carry-on. For more packing tips, head to What to Pack for Tonga: A Full Tonga Packing List.
4 Steps to Get Your Drone Registration in Tonga
- Go to the Civil Aviation Division (CAD) in Nuku’alofa with your drone or drone information and passport
- Fill out the Drone Registration Form
- Go through the Tonga aviation rules with a CAD officer
- Sign and date the Drone Registration Form (the CAD officer will do the same).
Where to Register Your Drone in Tonga
You need to register a drone with the Civil Aviation Division (CAD). Their office can be found at the Ministry of Infrastructure building in Nuku’alofa.
The Ministry of Infrastructure building is located on Alaivahamama’o Bypass Road. After turning off Taufa’ahau Road at the corner with the Little India restaurant, keep going past the BP gas station and you’ll see the building clearly signed. The CAD office is around the back of the building, but you can ask the staff at the Land Transport Division office at the front to show you where to go.
You may be able to register a drone via email before arriving in Tonga. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.
What You Need to Register Your Drone
Registering your drone at the CAD office requires you to complete a form, where it’s best to bring your passport and drone in order to get the information required. Otherwise, make a note of the following information from your drone so you have it available for completing the Drone Registration Form.
Information You Need to Know to Complete the Drone Registration Form
- Name of the owner and/or operators and their ID number (can be a passport number)
- Contact phone number
- Certificates/licenses held for drone
- Address in Tonga (can state the accommodation you are staying in)
- Email address
- Drone manufacturer
- Model of the drone
- Serial number of the drone (can usually be found on the drone underneath the battery)
- Equipment installed
- Maximum operational height
- Maximum operational distance
- Battery life
- Total weight
- Locations where you intend to use the drone
- The purpose for using the drone (can be recreational if just taking holiday photos or state otherwise)
- Place of residence
- Departure date from Tonga.
Once you have completed the Drone Registration Form, the CAD officer with go through the Tonga drone rules (same as the ones stated below) with you. You will then sign and date the form, as will the CAD officer. The officer will also stamp the form if approved.
You can now legally fly your drone in Tonga.
Rules for Flying a Drone in Tonga
Once you have filled out the information required on the Drone Registration Form, you will go through the following rules with a CAD officer to make sure you are aware of them and will adhere to them. The rules include:
- Give way to all manned aircraft
- Do not operate an aircraft that is 25 kg (55 lbs) or larger
- Fly the aircraft so it isn’t a hazard to other aircraft, property and people
- Fly only in daylight
- Be able to see your aircraft with your own eyes (not through binoculars, a monitor or a smartphone) or have a second person with you as an observer
- Fly your aircraft no higher than 120 m (400 ft) above ground level
- Have knowledge of the airspace and restrictions applied to the area you want to operate
- Fly no closer than 4 km (2.5 mi) from an uncontrolled aerodrome
- When flying in a controlled airspace, obtain air traffic control clearance issued from the Air Traffic Control Tower
- Have permission from the Administering Authority (such as the army) to fly in special use airspace
- Have consent from anyone you want to fly above
- Have the consent of the property owner or person in charge of the area you want to fly above.
More About Drones in Tonga
That’s it for our complete guide to flying drones in Tonga. For more about drones and specifically ground photography, however, take a look at the following guides:
- Where to Take Pictures in Tonga: 10 Best Photography Spots
- Sightseeing in Tonga: Top 10 Sights in Tonga
- What to Pack for Tonga: A Full Tonga Packing List
Finally, for more tips on bossing it in Tonga, see the 30 Tips for Travelling in Tonga.