Home > Topical issues > Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

Operations of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)


With the advent of aviation technology in recent years, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are widely used, mainly for military purposes, in many parts of the world. There are also a growing number of civilian applications of UAS, e.g. aerial surveillance, photography, and search and rescue. With the maturing and miniaturisation of applicable technologies, UAS offer possibilities for cheaper, more capable alternative airborne equipment that can be used without risk to aircrew.

Civil Aviation Department (CAD) is responsible for processing applications for non-recreational operations of UAS (such as for hire or reward) within Hong Kong. With the significantly different level of sophistication of UAS available in the market, any person intending to operate UAS, regardless of size and weight, for non-recreational purpose within Hong Kong should submit details to CAD well before the intended date of operation.

JW Player goes here

Flying Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) weighing not more than 7 kg (without its fuel) for recreational purpose can be classified as model aircraft flying, and no application to CAD is required. For details, please refer to CAD's leaflet concerning safety tips for operating UAS for recreational purpose and the webpage on "Flying Model Aircraft". Except with CAD's endorsement, heavy UAS weighing more than 7 kg (without its fuel) are not allowed to fly in Hong Kong for recreational purpose.

The following are the general operational parameters for safe operations of non-recreational UAS:

1. Area of operations
a) UAS shall normally not be flown within the Aerodrome Traffic Zone (ATZ) or within 5 km of any aerodrome.

b) UAS shall not be flown over or within 50 m of any person, vessel, vehicle or structure not under the control of the UAS operator; except that during take-off and landing, the UAS must not be flown over or within 30 m of any person other than the person in charge of the UAS or a person necessarily present in connection with the operation of the UAS. Further conditions on flight safety clearance may be imposed on the operation of the UAS as necessary.

c) The UAS operation site (including emergency operation zone and any safety zone for the operation of the UAS) shall be under the operator's full control.

d) The take-off and landing area should be properly segregated from public access.

2. Control of UAS
The UAS operator shall be on site and keep the UAS within Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) during the period of the flight. Operating within VLOS means that the UAS operator is able to maintain direct, unaided (other than corrective lenses) visual contact with the UAS, and is able to monitor the UAS flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vessels, vehicle and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions.

3. Other related issues
a) The UAS operator is responsible for ensuring that no person and property would be endangered by the UAS, and shall not fly the UAS unless he has reasonably satisfied himself that the flight can be safely made.

b) No hazardous material may be carried nor objects be dropped from the UAS in order to avoid endangering persons or property on the ground.

c) The person in charge of the UAS shall not fly the UAS unless before the flight he has satisfied himself that the mechanism that causes the UAS to home and land in the event of a failure of or disruption on any control systems, including the radio link, is in working order.

d) The UAS operator shall maintain records of each flight made pursuant to the permission and makes such records available to CAD on request.

e) A site safety assessment has been completed by the UAS operator, and can be made available to CAD on request.

f) Permission of the land/property owner on whose land/property the UAS is intended to operate has been obtained.

g) The operation is carried out in accordance with the operations manual submitted to CAD.

h) The UAS operator shall perform a safety check on UAS (including its fuel or lithium batteries) before operating UAS.

4. Altitude of Operations
The altitude of UAS shall not exceed 300 feet (~90 m) above ground level.

5. Altitude keeping performance capability
The UAS operator shall describe the means of altitude keeping to ensure that the actual altitude flown is accurate.

6. Time of Operations
a) UAS operations shall be conducted during daylight hours only.

b) No more than one UAS will normally be permitted at any one time within the same block of designated airspace.

7. Weather Criteria
a) ground visibility of not less than 5 km - visibility of more than 5 km may be required depending on the nature and area of operations;

b) cloud base not lower than the approved altitude of operations;

c) surface wind of no more than 20 knots, unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer (the surface wind speed limit may be reduced if the controllability of the UAS is in doubt);

d) the UAS operator shall have a hand-held anemometer to monitor surface wind speed on site; and

e) the UAS operator must not launch the UAS when Rainstorm Warning, Tropical Cyclone Warning or Strong Monsoon Signal is in force.

8. Pilot Qualification
Evidence of pilot competency is required when making an application for permission to operate UAS.

9. Operations Manual
a) The UAS operator is required to submit an operations manual covering the procedures to be followed for all envisaged operations of the UAS. This document is a key requirement to enable CAD to accurately assess the application and the safety case before deciding whether to grant a permission.

b) Guidance for the compilation of the UAS operations manual can be downloaded here.

10. Communication with ATC (if required)
a) The UAS operator shall inform the CAD/Aerodrome Supervisor before launching and on completion of the UAS operation.

b) The UAS operator shall provide his/her contact phone number to the CAD/Aerodrome Supervisor, who may instruct to stop the operation when necessary.

11. Frequency spectrum and Radio Frequency Interference (RFI)
The UAS operator is required to seek approval from the Office of the Communications Authority on the use of radio frequencies and to ensure that no RFI is caused to air traffic operations and air navigation equipment.


a) An application for operating UAS shall be submitted to the CAD well before the intended date of operation. The electronic form is accessible through this link(Open with new window). (Best view with Internet Explorer (IE) 8.0/9.0)

b) In accordance with the Air Transport (Licensing of Air Services) Regulations (Chapter 448A of the Laws of Hong Kong) Regulation 22, the applicant is also required to submit an Application for Permit for use of aircraft for the provision of air service - Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).

c) The operator is required to assess the risks involved and to provide a copy of an insurance policy that appropriately insures the operator in respect of third party risks which may be incurred.

The required information and documents are listed in the Checklist of Required Documents for UAS Applications. The application form(s) and all relevant information, including Operations Manual and Land/Property Owner Permission, must reach CAD at least 28 working days prior to the date of the proposed flight. Depending on the complexity of the proposed operation, extra time may be required for processing the application.

The application form(s) and supporting documents shall be submitted to [uas@cad.gov.hk] or by fax to 2877 8542. If by email, these documents shall be either in PDF or MS Word format for text files, and PDF or JPEG format for photo files. Incomplete or insufficient information may delay the application process.

Other Relevant Legislations
The UAS operator may need to comply with other legislations in Hong Kong such as Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance. Information on personal data privacy associated with UAS is available in the following websites:

  • Homepage of Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD)
  • PCPD's media statement on 31 March 2015
  • The operator is responsible for obtaining all the necessary permissions from other relevant authorities and complying with conditions required by them before the operation.

    For further enquiries, please contact the Air Services and Safety Management Division of CAD at 2910 6611 or [uas@cad.gov.hk].