A guide to drone rules in New Zealand: What you need to know
Drones are becoming more and more popular, but many drone owners in New Zealand don't know the drone rules. It's important that you know your responsibilities before flying your drone to keep yourself, others and your drone safe. This guide will help you understand all of the laws surrounding drones, quadcopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) so that can fly legally and safely in New Zealand. Know what you can and can't do when flying your drone.
- Part 101 Rules
- Shielded Operations
- Airspace Restrictions
- Special Use Airspace
- Controlled Airspace
- The Privacy Law
- Common Questions
Part 101 Rules
When flying a drone you are required to follow the part 101 civil aviation rules. The main rules are
If you need to fly outside the Part 101 rules, you will need to hold a Part 102 unmanned aircraft operator certificate. Most Hobbyist drone pilots will be able to fly under the Part 101 rules.
A shielded operation(or flight) is when you fly your drone close to a natural or man-made object. For example, a building, tower or trees. You must stay within 100 metres of the object, and fly below the top of it. This lets you fly at night or within a controlled airspace without air traffic control clearance. This is because other aircraft are unlikely to be flying so low and close to structures.
If you are within 4km of an an aerodrome (including Airports), there must also be a physical barrier between your drone and the airport. Examples are a building or a stand of trees, which is capable of stopping your drone if it loses control.
You can view a list of these at Aeronautical Information Publication New Zealand (AIP).
Maps showing the boundaries are called Visual Navigation Charts (VNC).
An Aerodrome is anywhere designed to be used for the landing, take off and movement of aircraft. This includes airports, helipads and airfields. You must get permission from the aerodrome operator before flying within 4Km of their aerodrome unless you are flying under a shielded operation.
If you are flying under a shielded operation, there must also be a physical barrier between your drone and the airport. Examples are a building or a stand of trees, which is capable of stopping your drone if it loses control.
If you aren't flying under a shielded operation you must also;
- hold an appropriate pilot qualification, or be under the direct supervision of someone who does.
- have an observer with you while flying
- stay well clear of all other aircraft
- never operate over an active runway strip or area where aircraft taxi.
Special Use Airspace
Designated zones or areas where you cannot fly without special permission. It includes restricted areas, military operating areas, danger areas, mandatory broadcast zones, volcanic hazard zones and low flying zones. Temporary designation can be issued to help a police, military, or search and rescue operation. To fly in special use airspace, you need to get the permission of the administering authority.
Where there is an air traffic control service for the safety and efficiency of aircraft operations. Around airports this usually extends far beyond the 4km. You need clearance from air traffic control to fly your drone in controlled airspace, unless you are flying using a shielded operation. You can use the Airshare website or app to request air traffic control clearance through. Airshare is currently free for everyone, although there may be standardized charges in the future.
You can't request authorization for flights within 4km of an uncontrolled aerodrome through Airshare. You will need to contract the aerodrome operator directly, the contact information is usually available on airshare.
The Privacy Law
The New Zealand Privacy Act also applies anytime you are using the camera on a drone, whether it is recording or not.
Drone pilots need to take reasonable steps to notify people;
- that drones with cameras are active in the area
- who is responsible for them
- what the footage will be used for
This could be as simple as posting a sign, but will be depend on the situation. In some cases it will not be practical.
Drone pilots also need to make sure they aren’t collecting information a way that is unfair or intrudes on someone’s personal affairs. Notification does not excuse drone operators from this aspect of the Privacy Act. For example, it would be unfair to hover outside someone’s bedroom window while they changed, even if that person was notified.
Do you need a License for a drone in New Zealand?
No. You do not need a license to be a drone operator. Although, there are some proposed rule changes. You still need to be follow the New Zealand Civil Aviation rules.
Do you need to register drones in New Zealand?
Where can I fly a drone in New Zealand?
How high can I fly my drone?
You can fly your drone up to 120 metres above ground level. This is so your drone stays out of the way of other aircraft. If you come across a plane that is flying low, you must immediately land your drone.
How far can I fly my drone?
As far as you are able to see your drone, it's surrounding and the direction it is going in with your own eyes. This means the naked eye, and not with the aid of binoculars, a monitor or smartphone. Do not fly it behind objects or through or above fog and cloud. You must be able to take immediate action to get your drone out of the way if something unexpected happens.
What is the Airshare app?
Airshare is an app that helps you identify safe places to fly and lets you request clearance to fly in controlled airspace.
Can you fly a drone over private property, in a residential area or over houses?
Find out here
Can you fly a drone at night?
Only if you are flying using a shielded operation.
What is a shielded operation?
Find out here
What is an Aerodrome?
Find out here
This information is as up to date as possible. If there is any difference between the information here and the rules published by the Civil Aviation Authority, follow the CAA rules.