Drone Laws in Tonga

Agencies Responsible for regulating drones in the Kingdom of Tonga

Tonga is a member of the Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO) Regional Safety Oversight Organisation 

Tonga currently use regulations established by the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand


UAS Laws – General rules for flying drones in Tonga

The Tonga agency responsible for drone safety, PASO, has provided several details on flying a drone for fun or work. The highlights are enumerated below. For more details go to the link above.

Are drones allowed in Tonga?

According to PASO, drones are allowed in Tonga, subject to PASO regulations. Read on for more details.

Here are the most important rules to know for flying a drone in Tonga:

All drones entering Tonga must be registered online with the Civil Aviation Authority. 

Registration is $50 for individuals and $50 for drones. 

After completing the registration process, you will gain access to the list of no-fly zones.

When flying unmanned aircraft, you need to follow the Part 101 rules. If you cannot follow the rules outlined below, you must apply for a Part 102 certification.

Before you fly

  • Aircraft must NOT exceed 25kg and must always be safe to operate and well maintained.
  • You must take steps to minimize hazards to people, property, and other aircraft.
  • Only fly during daylight unless you are doing a shielded operation.
  • Give way to all crewed aircraft, e.g., planes, helicopters, hang gliders, and paragliders. Land your aircraft immediately if another aircraft approaches.
  • You must be able to see your unmanned aircraft with your own eyes at all times. Don’t watch it through binoculars, a monitor, or a smartphone. Also, do not fly it behind objects or through or above fog and clouds.
  • Fly below 120 meters (400 feet) above ground level.
  • Get consent before flying over people and property.
  • There are several no-fly zones – check for any airspace restrictions in your area before you fly.

Share the skies – drone rules brochure [PDF 565 KB]

Where can you fly?

Airspace can be designated as controlled or special use airspace.

Controlled airspace is where there is a need for an air traffic control service for the safety and efficiency of aircraft operations. Special use airspace includes restricted areas, military operating areas, mandatory broadcast zones, volcanic hazard zones, danger areas, and low flying zones.

Maps showing the boundaries of controlled and other special use airspaces, called Visual Navigation Charts (VNC), are available.

  • You may be able to fly in controlled airspace by obtaining air traffic control clearance from PASO.
  • You don’t need authorization from air traffic control if you can conduct your flight as a shielded operation.
  • Stay 4 km away from all aerodromes – unless you’ve got clearance from the aerodrome operator.
  • Do not fly in special use airspace without the permission of the administering authority. For example, military operating areas or restricted areas.
  • It’s safer NOT-to fly over people. However, if you need to, only fly above people if you have asked for their consent.
  • Get the consent of the property owner or person in charge of the land you want to fly over.
  • Check with your local council or the Department of Conservation before flying in public places like parks and reserves. Your regional council’s website, for example, will have information about drone use in your area. You must apply for a permit from the Department of Conservation to fly over conservation land.

Operational restrictions to know for flying a drone in Tonga:

  • Drones must weigh no more than 25 kilograms (55 pounds), and drone pilots must ensure that their drones are safe to fly before taking flight. 
  • Drone pilots must always take reasonable precautions to avoid endangering persons, property, or other aircraft (i.e., do not fly recklessly). 
  • Drones are only permitted to fly during daylight hours. 
  • Drones must yield to crewed aircraft at all times. 
  • At all times, drone pilots must maintain a direct visual line of sight with their drones. 
  • Drones are not permitted to fly higher than 120 meters (394 feet) above the ground. 
  • Drone pilots must be familiar with the airspace restrictions that apply to the area in which they operate. 
  • A drone may not be flown within a radius of four kilometers (2.5 miles) of an aerodrome. 
  • Drone pilots must obtain an air traffic control clearance from Airways to fly in controlled airspace. 
  • Drone pilots are not permitted to operate in special use airspace without the permission of the area’s administering authority (e.g., military operating areas or restricted areas). 
  • Drone pilots must obtain consent before flying over an individual. 
  • Before flying over property or area, drone pilots must obtain the consent of the property owner or person in charge.
  • Consult your local council or the Department of Conservation before flying over public areas such as parks and reserves. 
  • Avoid flying a drone near marine life. Under the 1992 Marine Mammals Protection Regulations, no aircraft shall be closer than 150 meters (500 feet) horizontally from a point directly above any marine mammal when operating at less than 600 meters (2,000 feet) above sea level.

Note for Foreign Operator

If you’re traveling to Tonga and intend to bring your drone, PASO recommends the following special considerations for foreigners flying drones: 

  • All foreign drones and operators must be registered in advance of their arrival in Tonga and subject to inspection at customs.
  • To register as a drone pilot, you must be at least 16 years old.

Notes for recreational drone pilots flying for fun in Tonga

Tonga drone rules aren’t separated into recreational and commercial rules. 

You must follow the Part 101 rules when flying your drone.

If you need to fly outside the Part 101 drone rules, you will need to hold a Part 102 unmanned aircraft operator certificate.

Intro to Part 101 rules for unmanned aircraft

Intro to Part 102 certification for unmanned aircraft


Notes for Commercial Drone Services operations in Tonga

Tonga drone rules aren’t separated into recreational and commercial rules like some other countries. 

You must follow the Part 101 rules when flying your drone.

If you need to fly outside the Part 101 drone rules, you will need to hold a Part 102 unmanned aircraft operator certificate.

Intro to Part 101 rules for unmanned aircraft

Intro to Part 102 certification for unmanned aircraft


Useful published information on flying drones in Tonga

Here is a useful introduction video by CAANZ and Airshare NZ on flying a drone legally in Tonga…

NOTE: Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS), Small UAS, Remote Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS), unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), and drone are interchangeable terms unless specified. Model aircraft, toy aircraft, Remote controlled aircraft, and RC aircraft may be covered by the same regulations unless specified.


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IMPORTANT NOTE

The content on this site is collated by volunteers from public general information. This material is not presented as legal advice of any kind, and we cannot guarantee that the information is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. Do not substitute the information you find here for legal advice from a licensed attorney who is authorized to practice in the jurisdiction. When in doubt, contact the local aviation authority responsible for drone safety, utilize a licensed drone service operator, and/or consult a qualified attorney.

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