Operational Guidelines for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Systems

Introduction In recent years, aviation technology has been developing continuously, and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems are widely used all over the world. These systems are mainly used for military purposes, but civil aviation applications such as aerial surveillance, aerial photography and search and rescue are also increasing day by day. With the maturity and miniaturization of applicable technologies, UAV systems have become cheaper and better-performing aircrafts for users to choose from, which can also avoid the risk of aircrew casualties.

Operational Guidelines for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Systems
Operational Guidelines for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Systems

The Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department is responsible for processing applications for operating UAV systems in Hong Kong’s airspace. As the precision of various UAV systems on the market varies greatly, those who intend to operate these systems in Hong Kong airspace should submit detailed information to the Civil Aviation Department as early as possible before the scheduled operation date. The main purpose of regulating the flight activities of these systems is to ensure that the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles (regardless of size and weight) will not endanger other airspace users and any people and property on the ground.

In general, unmanned aerial vehicle systems are not allowed to fly over densely populated areas, load dangerous goods, or drop objects that endanger any person or property on the ground. The airspace through which these systems fly shall be separated from other civil aviation traffic and shall not be operated in such a way as to endanger any person or property. Other guidelines for operating UAV systems weighing 7 kg or more are set out below:

General Safety Operating Guidelines for UAV Systems of 7kg or More (Excluding Fuel)

1. Operating range A) Generally, it is not allowed to operate within 5 kilometers of the airport in controlled airspace, the airport traffic area or Hong Kong.

2. Operating height A) generally below 3,000 feet above sea level.
B) depending on the exact location, control and communication methods, the operating height limit may be lowered.

3. Operating time A) daytime only.

4. Number of UAVs A) the number of unmanned aerial vehicles allowed to fly in the same designated airspace and at the same time is usually not more than one.

5. Weather conditions

A) visibility shall not be less than 5km. Depending on the nature and scope of operation, visibility may be more than 5 km.

B) the cloud cover shall not be lower than the approved operating height.

C) unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer, the ground wind speed shall not exceed 20 nautical miles. If the Civil Aviation Department has any doubts about the degree of control of the UAV system, the upper ground wind speed limit may be lowered.

D) UAV operators must be equipped with portable anemometers to monitor ground wind speed on site.

E) when thunderstorm warning, heavy rain warning and strong monsoon signal come into effect, UAV operators are not allowed to fly the UAV system.

6. Control UAVs A) UAV operators must be on site and ensure that the UAV is within sight during the entire flight.

7. Liaison with Air Traffic Control Center A) UAV operators must notify the on-duty supervisor of the airport control tower before and after each flight.
B) UAV operators shall provide contact telephone numbers in advance to the on-duty supervisor of the airport control tower so that the supervisor can call the operator when he thinks it is necessary to terminate the operation.

8. Ability to maintain flight altitude A) the UAV operator shall explain the method of maintaining the flying height of the UAV to ensure the actual flying height is accurate.

9. Other related matters

A) take-off and landing places should be properly separated from public places.

B) unmanned aerial vehicles shall not fly within 50 meters of any person, vessel, vehicle or structure, unless such person, vessel, vehicle or structure is monitored by the unmanned aerial vehicle operator. This restriction is not applicable to take-off and landing. During take-off and landing, unmanned aerial vehicles are not allowed to fly within 30 meters of any person, unless the person is one of the operators or the person who must be present during the operation.

10. Spectrum and Radio Interference A) UAV operators must obtain the approval of the office of the telecommunications authority to use radio frequencies and must ensure that the frequencies do not interfere with air traffic operations or air navigation equipment.

Note: If the UAV system does not meet the above operating criteria, the applicant should discuss directly with the Civil Aviation Department as soon as possible to decide whether there are acceptable alternative measures.


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