Proposed rule changes for flying drones in NZ: What you need to know

Changes to laws that would affect how drone hobbyists can operate are currently under consideration. These changes would introduce rules for drones specifically, rather than lumping them in with all unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). These would include mandatory drone registration if your drone weighs 250 grams or over, a mandatory pilot qualification, introduction of new definitions and other minor clarifications. You can read about the current rules at Drone rules in New Zealand: What you need to know.

Proposed Drone Pilot Qualification

A basic pilot qualification would allow you to fly a drone weighing up to 25 kilograms, and supervise an unqualified operator (if you are 16+).  The test would be a simple online theory test with no minimum age. It would include questions about safety, security, privacy and civil aviation rules. It would require knowledge of airspace restrictions, air traffic control clearance, existing legal and regulatory requirements, and standard operating conditions. You don't need the qualification if you are flying your drone inside, or are being supervised by someone 16 years or over with the qualification.

Proposed Drone Registration

You would be required to register if your drone weighs 250 grams or over and is flown outside. Registration would be online and user friendly with a unique number to display on the drone. Examples of display are a permanent label, engraving or marking with indelible ink. Drone registration is to identify drones and their owners in order to improve rule enforcement and make sure that important information can be communicated to drone pilots. 

Other Proposed Changes

Other proposed changes would include the removal or relaxation of needing consent to fly over people or private property. This would still be regulated under New Zealand privacy law. There will also be a review of the minimum flight distance from aerodromes which is currently set at four kilometers. Minor rules updates will introduce definitions and clarify Rules where needed.

What happens now?

The Ministry of Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of New Zealand are working together on these changes to make them clearer, fairer and future focused.

Feedback on the proposed approach has closed. Final policy recommendations to Minister and Cabinet approval are scheduled late 2021. Followed by a rules development process over 2022 and 2023. The current document does not represent final Government policy.

Although not yet law, these proposed measures are a good indication of what is to come. Our opinion is that they will be put into effect with only minor changes. If you are a drone pilot or thinking of becoming one, it is important to understand these proposed changes and keep up-to-date with the proposal.

The full Enabling Drone Integration document can be found here.

You can find out more information at the New Zealand Ministry of Transport


Would there be fees?

Fees are a possibility, however they don't want the fees to be so high that they keep people from following the rules.

What happens if the rules are broken?

Infringement offences would be introduced with penalties of fixed fees which are issued on the spot by an enforcement officer. They can be heard in court if you challenge the offence or fail to pay the fee. It can't result in a criminal conviction.

Last updated 6th September 2021