What New Zealand drone owners should be aware of

Staff Writer By Staff Writer - April 10th, 2015
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Buying a drone isn't the same as purchasing a smartphone or a tablet. Piloting these aircraft comes with a set of responsibilities owners are expected to uphold, and failing to do so can result in penalties.

This isn't to say people should avoid purchasing remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), as the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAA) calls them. These devices can help you take stunning aerial photos and videos - great for professionals and hobbyists alike.

You just need to remember to follow the rules.

Keeping yourself in check

The CAA provides drone owners with a set of basic rules that should be easy to remember. While there are a number of regulations that target specific RPAS, those that apply to all are listed below:

  • When in flight, the operator must be able to see the drone with his or her own eyes, meaning using binoculars, a monitor or smartphone doesn't count.
  • Aircraft with onboard crew must be given the right of way.
  • RPAS cannot fly within four kilometres of any aerodrome.
  • Drones cannot fly higher than 120 metres.
  • RPAS can only be flown in daylight.

Individual parts and use cases are expected to be handled according to certain sub-clauses, which can be found on the CAA website.

Avoiding trouble

These laws are in place for good reason. Stuff noted that Dwayne Carey, a cameraman from Invercargill, received a visit from the CAA after footage from his drone appeared on watsoninvers.co.nz. After a three-hour interview, Mr Carey was fined $500 for flying within an unacceptable proximity to the airport and operating the drone at dusk.

It's incidents such as these that remind drone owners of their responsibilities. Before purchasing such an aircraft, read up on the CAA's regulations and find a safe place to fly your drone. It's well worth it, especially as doing so will help you keep New Zealand airspace safe.

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