These terms are used interchangeably. RPAS means a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System and is a relatively new term that has been adopted by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) to encompass an uncrewed aircraft (UA) and everything involved in their operation including software, aircraft, and operation procedures. UAS means an Unmanned Aerial System and includes software and the aircraft vehicle.
AirShare provides drone operators with information about airspace, and access to controlled airspace via the AirShare Pilot app. Air traffic control also provides separation services by segregating a drone from other traffic in the same vicinity.
The industry group is UAVNZ. This group holds regular in-person and virtual forums, and distributes a regular newsletter.
A drone is vulnerable to weather so calm, clear conditions are important to fly safely. You need to be able to see your UAV (this is called within “visual line of sight”) and weather can affect your visibility. You need to be able to operate without putting anyone else at risk e.g. people, property or other aircraft, so might be best to avoid unpredictable or rough weather.
If you are operating within 4km of an aerodrome you need to be:
- A holder of (or under direct supervision of the holder of) a pilot qualification; or
- Under supervision of a remotely piloted aircraft instructor; or
- A holder of a pilot licence or certificate under Part 69 or Part 149
If you are operating more than 4km from an aerodrome you do not need a licence, however you are required to have knowledge of the Part 71 airspace designations and restrictions in the area you intend to fly. If you are operating under a Part 102 Operator Certificate, the CAA will require that you undertake some training. See more information about the Part 102 certificate here on the CAA website.
This is constantly changing as research and development progresses. At the moment there are two main types: fixed wing and multi-rotors.
If operating under Part 101 you can fly up to a maximum of 400 feet or 120 metres. For a brief overview of how high you can fly and where, please refer to our Know the rules page.
Under a Part 102 Operator Certificate you may have an exemption from the CAA to fly higher in some circumstances.
The maximum height you are authorised to operate up to must always be measured from directly below your drone. Caution must be exercised to ensure you do not exceed this height limit, especially when operating in hilly or steep terrain.
If you fly away from the slope, the height AGL (above ground level) of your drone may increase rapidly. It is your responsibility to ensure you remain at or below the height authorised in your approval, at all times. See the diagram below:
Please note: It is your responsibility as the drone operator to read and understand the relevant rules and regulations. Please refer to the Drones section of the CAA website.
To ensure safety for people, property and other airspace users such as crewed aircraft. This is a Civil Aviation Rule. Refer 101.209 Visual line of sight operation:
A person who operates an aircraft to which this rule applies must at all times:
- maintain visual line of sight with the aircraft; and
- be able to see the surrounding airspace in which the aircraft is operating; and
- operate the aircraft below the cloud base.
You don’t need an operating procedure manual to fly under Rule Part 101, however you do need to know and abide by Civil Aviation Rules. Although not mandated for commercial operators under Rule Part 101, a manual is a popular means of meeting CAA requirements. Application for an operator certificate under Rule Part 102 will require an operating procedure manual. Please refer to the CAA website for more information.
The most commonly used frequencies that are legal for RPAS in New Zealand are 433 MHz or 2.4 GHz for remote control, along with 5.8 GHz for video and audio links. RPAS can use any of the general use or telecontrol frequencies in the General User Radio Licence for Short Range Devices and any of the frequencies in the General User Radio Licence for Aeronautical Control. These are the only frequencies that RPAS are permitted to use in New Zealand. RPAS must also comply with the licence conditions set out in the General User Licences and the Radiocommunications (Radio Standards) Notice 2020.
The Privacy Act applies to drones whenever they are collecting information for commercial purposes. This includes any situation when the camera is active – whether it’s recording or not.
Notification is the most relevant component of the Privacy Act. Drone operators need to take reasonably practicable steps to notify people that camera equipped drones are active in the area, who is responsible for them and what the footage will be used for. This could be as simple as posting a sign, but will be dictated by the situation’s specific circumstances. In some cases it will not be practical.
Drone operators also need to make sure they aren’t collecting information in an unfair way, or in a way that intrudes unreasonably on someone’s personal affairs. Notification does not excuse operators from this aspect of the Privacy Act. For example, it would probably be unfair to hover outside someone’s bedroom window while they change – regardless of whether the resident was notified.
While notification is the most relevant, the other privacy principles (such as those concerning storage, use and disclosure of information) are also relevant to drone use. An overview of the principles is available here.
This blog post is a real-world example of drones and privacy issues.
Finally, at least one person in every organisation should undertake the Privacy 101 e-learning module, which gives more detail about the rights and obligations organisations and people have under the Privacy Act.
If you want to fly your drone over people or property, you will need consent from them to do so under Part 101. However, flying over a large group of people at a public event is likely to be regarded as a hazardous operation, which is outside the bounds of Part 101.
This means certification is required under Part 102. The CAA would assess the need to get consent based on the operation, airworthiness of your aircraft, and the experience of the person behind the controls. The CAA may satisfy the requirement for consent by requiring you to erect signs at the entrance to the event. In some cases, the CAA may waive the requirement to gain consent if it determines you are capable of managing the risks effectively.
Filming by drone above New Zealand’s roads and particularly highways means you require permission from the Waka Kotahi (NZ Transport Agency) before you can fly.
Waka Kotahi rules state that that unless you have Part 102 certification, you may not fly or film directly above or along NZ highways, even if there is no traffic using the road at the time.
As the road controlling authority for New Zealand’s 11,000 km of state highways, and adjacent land potentially zoned for roading projects, Waka Kotahi is responsible for permitting any flying in the airspace above these roads.
Waka Kotahi considers RPAS or drones to be a distraction to road users that may result in or be the cause of an accident, or be a direct hazard to people and vehicles due to misadventure or a malfunction.
Waka Kotahi’s policy is to not permit non-certificated operations (covered under Part 101 of the CAA Rules) to fly directly above or along the road corridor, or cross over a section of the state highway, or on land potentially zoned for roading project, regardless of whether the highway is open or closed at the time of operation.
To meet Waka Kotahi’s health and safety obligations, this also applies to worksites which are contracted to suppliers by the agency.
Operators who hold, or are planning to apply for, a Part 102 certificate issued by the CAA who intend to fly above or adjacent to a state highway, should contact Waka Kotahi for permission
Requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account an agreed safety plan that will describe how you propose to manage the risks to road users, the state highway network and any contractor or supplier staff and equipment.
Controlled airspace is airspace of defined dimensions within which Air Traffic Control (ATC) services are provided. Controlled airspace is in place to provide a safe area for aircraft operations around an aerodrome for landing and take-off and for aircraft enroute between two aerodromes. More airspace information can be found here.
You require authorisation per flight from Air Traffic Control (Airways) to fly in controlled airspace – an authorisation request can be made via the AirShare Pilot app. If your planned flight meets the shielded operation requirements, you do not require Air Traffic Control authorisation, however your flight should be logged on AirShare. A shielded operation must meet the below requirements:
- An operation of an aircraft within 100m of, and below the top of, a natural or man-made object; and
- Outside of the boundary of the aerodrome; and
- In airspace that is physically separated from the aerodrome by a barrier that is capable of arresting the flight of the aircraft.
Specific equipment is not currently mandated. However, access to controlled airspace is only achieved by segregating a drone from other traffic. In the future, the goal is to integrate uncrewed aircraft into airspace, with specific equipment likely required e.g. a transponder so that surveillance knows where the drone is and a radio to be in contact with ATC.
A transponder is an electronic means of supplying radar identification and other data from a portable box on the UA. Basically, it enables an uncrewed aircraft to be seen by surveillance and by collision avoidance systems installed in other crewed aircraft.
It improves safety, helps to avoid collisions, and enables separation services to be performed by air traffic control. Being able to see an uncrewed aircraft is also an important step towards integrating UA’s into airspace.
Control tower hours of service are published in AIP supplements which can be found here (TIP: click on the latest supplement under the AIP Amendments section).
As a drone operator you are responsible under the Civil Aviation Act. You must give way to crewed aircraft, and you must understand and obey the relevant rules. For more information on the relevant rules please refer to the CAA website.
There are limitations to where you can fly your drone – please refer to the Part 101 rules on the CAA website. It’s important to note that as a guide you cannot fly in controlled airspace or within 4km of any “defined area of land or water intended or designed to be used either wholly or partly for the landing, departure, and surface movement of aircraft; and includes any buildings, installations, and equipment on or adjacent to any such area used in connection with the aerodrome or its administration” This includes an airport, aerodrome, airfield, heliport etc.
Yes, Airways is responsible for controlled airspace. To ensure safety for all air users and passengers, you must gain permission to fly in any controlled airspace. If your local park is in a control zone, then you must get permission from Airways. For example, that park could be in an aircraft approach path.
Yes – you need to understand the Civil Aviation rules in order to fly safely. Drones can be powerful vehicles and are capable of flying much higher than allowed for under CAA rules. You also need to understand if there are any Council or local authority bylaws that apply.
If you want to operate outside of any of the requirements under the Part 101 rules, you can apply to the CAA for a one-off exemption, or for a Part 102 operator certificate if you need permanent exemptions. In your application, you can indicate which requirement(s) of Part 101 you want to be granted a variation from. Application information can be found on the CAA website here.
- Part 101 will require that operators have knowledge of the airspace designation under Part 71. This means you will be required to know if your planned flight is within controlled or uncontrolled airspace, the class of the airspace or whether the airspace is designated special use (e.g. a Military Operating Area)
- You will also be required to be aware of any airspace restrictions (e.g. low flying areas, danger areas etc.) in the location of your planned flight.
- Part 101 still states that operations within controlled airspace require prior Air Traffic Control (ATC) authorisation, however the amended rule will allow ‘shielded operations’ to occur in controlled airspace with no ATC authorisation. A shielded operation is an operation within 100m of and below the top of a natural or man-made object (e.g. a tree or building). Within 4 kilometres of a controlled aerodrome a shielded operation must be physically separated from the aerodrome by a barrier that is capable of arresting the flight of the aircraft. .
- Part 101 allows the use of First Person View (FPV) systems however a trained and competent observer who maintains visual line of sight of the aircraft and is in direct communication with the aircraft operator is required.
- Part 101 will require operators to gain permission of people and property occupiers/owners if they wish to operate over people/property. Further information relating to this requirement is provided in this Advisory Circular.
A shielded operation is an operation conducted:
- Within 100 metres of, and below the top of, a natural or man-made object
- Outside of the boundary of all aerodromes; and
- In airspace that is physically separated from the aerodrome by a barrier that is capable of arresting the flight of the aircraft (Airshare hint: if there is no barrier e.g. a fence between you and the aerodrome, then your operation is not shielded)
Please refer to the CAA website for more information about flying shielded.
There is no current legal obligation for importers or retailers to provide regulation information. The CAA has developed a leaflet for wholesalers and retailers, which outlines the current rules, provides safety tips and CAA contact details.
Under the current Civil Aviation Rules, you require an authorisation if your drone weighs more than 25kg or you need to apply for a Part 102 Unmanned Aircraft Operator Certificate.
There are different Civil Aviation rules for the operation of a kite versus a drone.
It means you must be able to see and maintain sight of your drone the entire time you are flying it. This is contained under Rule Part 101, specifically rule 101.209 Visual line of sight operation which is the requirement to ensure that a model aircraft can satisfy rule 101.213 Right of way.