Flying your drone in New Zealand

The New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has done a great job and have a slick website called ’Airshare’. The main set of rules that a drone operator must adhere to is known as ’Part 101’. These are the basic rules for drone/UAV flight in New Zealand. There is another level, ’Part 102’, however, this is for the riskier operators such as commercial users and you need to obtain a certificate (license) for that. So for recreational droners, you need only concern yourself with the former, Part 101.

CAA Part 101 rules are:

  • Do not operate an aircraft that is 25 kg or larger and always ensure that it is safe to operate (that is bulky - so likely more commercial users)
  • At all times take all practicable steps to minimize hazards to persons, property and other aircraft (i.e, don’t do anything hazardous) (don’t be stupid)
  • Fly only in daylight (but of course)
  • Give way to all crewed aircraft
  • Be able to see the aircraft with your own eyes (e.g, not through binoculars, a monitor, or smartphone) to ensure separation from other aircraft (or use an observer to do this in certain cases)
  • Do not fly your aircraft higher than 120 metres (400 feet) above ground level (unless certain conditions are met)
  • You must have knowledge of airspace restrictions that apply in the area you want to operate (ahh, see Airmap!)
  • Do not fly closer than four kilometres from any aerodrome (unless certain conditions are met)
  • When flying in controlled airspace, obtain an air traffic control clearance issued by Airways (via Airshare My Flights) (Visitor? Use Airmap)
  • Do not fly in special use airspace without the permission of the controlling authority of the area (e.g. military operating areas or restricted areas)
  • You must have consent from anyone you want to fly above (just avoid large public areas or ask if several people are around)
  • You must have the consent of the property owner or person in charge of the area you are wanting to fly above.
  • So, common droning sense! Just avoid situations where you may endanger people with your drone and also distract others which could lead to injury. People here are pretty open to the use of them, I’ve had no issues yet and most smile at you but the papers seem to run articles almost daily on stories involving the misuse of drones. For example, one guy (a tourist) decided to fly it over the Auckland Harbour Bridge and it auto landed on the road! He thought he lost it at sea, but then the police found him as he’d left his details in the drone. Another visitor to the country is in a lot of trouble for trying to get shots of a large fire, whilst firemen (on the ground and in the air) were attempting to douse it. This guy is being threatened with 14 years in jail for this misuse. FOURTEEN YEARS?

    AIRMAP has recently launched a trial of their Unmanned Aerial System Traffic Management (UTM) in NZ, which is so good (coming from the UK where there isn’t anything of the sort, yet) all you need is the Airmap app for either iOS or Android. Plan your flight by indicating where you will fly, what time, your radius and height (remember the Part 101 rules here). Whilst doing this, the app states the rules and any advisories, so take note and remain within these. When you submit, it will give you an update on the weather and an authorisation request is sent directly to the relevant airspace authority, i.e. Christchurch, Queenstown airports, some councils etc, for approval. It usually takes around an hour to gain approval, so it’s best to plan in advance. If approval is accepted or denied, you will receive an SMS with information.  it is also possible to see where other people are flying their drones (see the paper airplane icon in Tauranga - map below). The system is slick and really makes things much simpler and the drone flyer feel more ‘law-abiding’, so I do hope that this trial is successful and continues throughout all of NZ and beyond. Furthermore, this will bring recreational drone users into the fold of flying responsibly and being visible, as we know that irresponsible and erratic behaviour leads to near-misses, reflecting badly on all of us. Nice one Airmap.

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