Rules for Unmanned Aircraft


Rules for Unmanned Aircraft

Rapidly advancing technology and the associated rise in popularity of remote controlled aircraft has resulted in a recent update to New Zealand civil aviation legislation. If you want to fly these unmanned aircraft you need to make sure you know what the new rules are and how to comply.

The term “unmanned aircraft” can apply to remotely piloted aircraft (including model aeroplanes and helicopters), balloons, rockets and drones. Of course this short article can’t give all the detail of the Civil Aviation Authority rules, it’s just an overview of one particular section – the relevant provisions of Part 101 of those rules – which applies to remotely piloted aircraft (referred to as RPA). The rules apply when your aircraft weighs less than 25kg and you’ll be flying it during the day, below 400 feet (120 metres). If you wish to operate above 400ft, at night or if your RPA weighs more than 25kg then you will need to refer to the provisions of Part 102.

RPAs on Private & Public Land

If you will be flying your RPA on private land which is more than 4km from an aerodrome then you must obtain the prior consent of the land owner, keep sight of your RPA at all times (i.e. the RPA must not be flown into cloud) and maintain a lookout for other aircraft. Consent must also be obtained from the owner of any public area such as a park. 

Aerodrome Rules

You must not operate the RPA within 4km of any aerodrome unless you have an appropriate pilot qualification, or are under the direct supervision of someone who holds the appropriate pilot qualification. This requirement is to ensure that the operator and/or supervisor have knowledge of the airspace restrictions. Even with that qualification, for an uncontrolled aerodrome you will also need to firstly get permission from the aerodrome, have an observer with each person who is piloting the aircraft and you cannot fly higher than 120 metres above ground, unless this has been specifically approved by the Director of the CAA. If you’re intending to fly your RPA within 4km of a controlled aerodrome (e.g. Nelson Airport) then prior permission must be obtained from Nelson Air Traffic Control. And finally, another important area to note is that you need consent from any people you will fly over – especially if you are intending to take videos or photos, as this could constitute a breach of privacy.