There can be a lot of confusion around what the actual rules are for flying a drone in New Zealand. As industry leading drone trainers, here at Drone Trust our courses are compliant with regulations. There are a number of things to be aware of to ensure you and everyone around you stays safe while piloting your drone. Here’s exactly what you need to know about drone rules.
The rules and regulations for unmanned aircraft in New Zealand have been developed with people’s safety, wildlife safety and the environment in mind. Because drone usage is still relatively new, rules do change when flying drones in New Zealand. Be sure to research the rules and restrictions for each location that you plan to fly your drone in NZ, whilst also following the below New Zealand Civil Aviation Rules. These are available in more detail from Aviation.govt.nz.
Part 101 Rules
When flying a drone you need to follow the following Part 101 Rules. If you aren’t able to comply with the Part 101 Rules, you must apply for a Part 102 Certification to demonstrate how you will manage any risks associated with operating your aircraft outside the Part 101 Rules.
BEFORE YOU FLY
It’s important to be considerate of others and be a responsible drone pilot to ensure everyone stays safe and drones can continue to thrive in our country. Before you fly, consider the following:
- 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 smartphone. Do not fly it behind objects or through or above fog and cloud.
- Fly below 120 metres (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.
GETTING PERMISSION TO FLY
You must not fly over people or property unless you have their consent. If you are unable to get consent (or it would be impractical), you can apply to be certified under the Part 102 Rules which allows you to work with Aviation NZ through different consent requirements.
WHERE YOU CAN FLY
There are two types of airspaces: controlled or special use. Controlled airspace is where air traffic control is needed for safe and efficient aircraft operations. Special use airspace is restricted areas such as low flying zones and restricted areas. Do not fly in special use airspace without the permission of the controlling authority of the area. You can also get a full list of airspace designated as special use from AIP New Zealand. The main rules for where you can fly a drone in NZ are:
- You don’t need authorisation from air traffic control if you can conduct your flight as a shielded operation.
- Stay 4km’s 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.
- It’s safer NOT to fly over people. If you need to, only fly above people if you have asked for their consent.
- Get 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.
- Aerodromes – you must get permission from aerodrome operators before flying your drone within 4km of their aerodrome (such as helipads at hospitals). To fly within 4km of an aerodrome you must also hold an appropriate pilot qualification or be supervised by someone who does. Contact details for operators can be found on AirShare.
- Shielded operations – this is when your drone flies within 100 metres of (and below the top of) a natural or manmade object (eg. buildings, towers, trees). When flying as a shielded operation you can fly at night, or within controlled airspace without Air Traffic Control clearance (because other aircraft are not likely to be low-flying).
Part 102 Certification
When you are unable to comply with Part 101 Rules, you may apply for Part 102 Unmanned Aircraft Operator Certification. You will need this if you wish to fly a drone unshielded at night, or if your drone weighs more than 25kg. Part 102 is about being able to show how you can manage any risks or hazards relevant to your flight. You will need to provide an operation manual showing how you identified risks and how you will mitigate each and each certification is given on a case-by-case basis.
You can find the application form and compliance information for ‘Part 102 Certification – Advisory Circulars’ at Aviation.govt.