A Complete Guide to Drones in the Cook Islands
With glorious beaches, sandy islands and crystal clear lagoons, there are many landscapes in the Cook Islands that simply beg for an aerial shot! While you may have seen some amazing drone footage from the Cook Islands and may be allowed to bring drones to the country, flying drones in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands is extremely restricted. Find out why in this guide to flying a drone in the Cook Islands…
Can You Take Your Drone to the Cook Islands?
There are no restrictions on bringing drones into Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. You do not need to declare a drone on your Passenger Arrival Card. Learn more in What to Declare When Arriving in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
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 Rarotonga: FULL Cook Islands Packing List.
Do You Need a Permit to Fly Your Drone in the Cook Islands?
You do not need a permit to fly a drone in the Cook Islands for recreational use. However, drone manufacturers like DJI will block your drone from flying in the majority of Rarotonga and Aitutaki unless you have an unlock code, which incidentally, needs a drone permit… In short, you can only really fly your DJI drone at Muri Beach and Titikaveka without a permit.
You do, however, need to apply for a drone permit if you are flying a drone for commercial use, such as professional photography or filming. Permits are obtained from the Cook Islands Ministry of Transport.
Note that most of Rarotonga, Aitutaki and all of the outer islands are within airport control zones and therefore permission must be obtained from the Air Traffic Services before all drone flights within these zones, whether you are flying recreationally or commercially.
Cook Islands Drone Rules
Although it is legal to fly a drone in the Cook Islands and Rarotonga, there are some drone rules that you must adhere to:
- Do not fly within 4km (2.5 miles) of airports or aerodromes (otherwise, get permission from Air Traffic Services)
- Do not fly your drone at a height above 400ft (122m) above the ground/water
- Do not fly your drone over people or property unless consent has been obtained
- Respect people’s privacy when flying your drone
- You must fly your drone during daylight hours and only when the weather is suitable
- Do not fly your drone in sensitive areas, such as government or military facilities.
The Problem with Flying Drones in the Cook Islands…
Now onto the question: Should you take your drone to Rarotonga and the Cook Islands? We believe the answer is no, and here’s why…
The islands of the Cook Islands, including Rarotonga, are extremely small. With drone laws in the Cook Islands stating that drones are “Not to be operated within 4km of an uncontrolled aerodrome”, this doesn’t leave much space to fly a drone on many of the islands. In fact, you can only really fly a drone without getting Air Services‘ permission at Muri Beach and Titikaveka.
Even if you were to attempt to “break the rules” drone manufacturers like DJI have No Fly Zones (NFZ) around the Cook Islands’ airports. These display in red on your DJI app and lock your drone from flying unless you have a unlock code. This code can only be obtained if you have a written permit obtained from the Cook Islands Ministry of Transport… Therefore, taking a drone for the recreational purpose of getting some fun holiday snaps in the Cook Islands is not worth it, as the NFZ around Rarotonga and the Cook Islands will turn your expensive drone into a useless brick.
More About Drones in the Cook Islands
That’s it for our complete (but likely disappointing) guide to flying drones in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. For more about drones and specifically ground photography, however, take a look at the following guides:
- Where to Take Pictures in the Cook Islands: 10 Best Photography Spots
- Sightseeing in the Cook Islands: Top 10 Sights in the Cook Islands
- What to Pack for Rarotonga: FULL Cook Islands Packing List
Finally, for more tips on bossing it in the Cook Islands, see the 30 Tips for Travelling in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.