AirShare answers questions about local rules and regulations frequently asked by new drone owners and visitors to New Zealand.

If you can’t find the answers you are looking for below, please contact us.

Christchurch Control Tower Sunset


General Questions

What is the difference between the terms RPAS, UAV, UAS and drone?

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 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) 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. The term Drone is often used when referring to military use.

Who do I need to talk to before flying a UAV/ UAS/ Drone?

You’ve started in the right place at airshare! Understand the rules that apply to your UAV by checking out the Rules top tips and the CAA website. If you are planning on operating in controlled airspace you can request access via the airshare My Flights tool.  

What services are Airways providing to UAV operators, and how much does it cost?

Airways' currently provides UAV operators with information about airspace, access to controlled airspace via the airshare My Flights tool and separation services by segregating a UAV from other traffic in the same vicinity. Charging for these services will be standardised shortly. 

What is a Part 102 Certificate and do I need one?

If you are not able to comply with all the requirements contained within CAR Part 101, you can to apply to the CAA for a Part 102 Operator Certificate. As part of your application for certification, you can request exemption or variation from a particular rule(s) within Part 101. You can find the application form on the CAA website and Advisory Circular with further information here.

What industry groups are there to get more information?  

The industry group is UAVNZ. There is also a monthly in-person and virtual forum held at NZi3 (University of Canterbury).

Who is using a UAV/ RPAS/ UAS and for what? 

This is an emerging industry and appeals to commercial operators as well as aviation and technical enthusiasts. Check our News hub for videos and images and the News page for industry profiles. Uses include: aerial photography, surveying, film, R & D and more.

What sort of weather conditions do I need to fly a UAV/ RPAS? 

A UAV 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. 

Do I need a pilot licence to fly a UAV/ RPAS? 

If you are operating <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 >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 Part 102 Advisory Circular for further information). 

What types of UAV are there? 

This is constantly changing as research and development progresses. At the moment there are two main types: fixed wing and multi-rotors. 

What are the height restrictions that govern how high I can fly a drone and where? 

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 the Rules top tips. 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 UAV. 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 UAV 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:
Above ground level diagram

Please note: the information contained on Airshare is not a substitute for knowledge of the comprehensive rules of the air. It is your responsibility as the UAV operator to read and understand the relevant rules and regulations. 

Why can’t I fly further than visual line of sight? 

To ensure safety for people, property and other airspace users such as manned 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
(1) maintain visual line of sight with the aircraft; and
(2) be able to see the surrounding airspace in which the aircraft is operating; and
(3) operate the aircraft below the cloud base.

Do I need to submit a manual of operating procedures to CAA or Airways to fly my drone? 

You don’t need an operating procedure manual to fly under Rule Part 101 but 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.

What radio frequencies can I use? 

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 2015.

What privacy rules/regulations are applicable to drone operations? (NOTE: Answer provided by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner)

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 post on our blog is a real-world example of drones and privacy issues. 
Finally, at least one person in every organisation should undertake our Privacy 101 e-learning module, which gives more detail about the rights and obligations organisations and people have under the Privacy Act. The course is free, online and can be done at the participant’s own pace.  Modules are available here.

What do I need to do if I want to film a large group of people at a public event with my UAV?

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.

Airspace Questions

What is the difference between controlled and uncontrolled airspace?

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 I fly a drone in controlled airspace and what equipment do I need to have on-board?

You require authorisation per flight from Air Traffic Control (Airways) to fly in controlled airspace. You can request authorisation via the airshare MyFlights online flight logging tool. 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 100 m 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.

At the moment specific equipment is not mandated. However access to controlled airspace is only achieved by segregating a UAV from other traffic. In the future, it is a goal to integrate UAV’s into airspace and that is likely to require specific equipment e.g. a transponder so that surveillance knows where the UAV is and a radio to be in contact with ATC.

What is a transponder?

It is an electronic means of supplying radar identification and other data from a portable box on the aircraft or UAV. Basically, it enables an aircraft, or UAV, to be seen by surveillance and by collision avoidance systems installed in other manned aircraft. 

Why do air traffic control and other aircraft need to see these unmanned objects? 

It improves safety, helps to avoid collisions, and enables separation services to be performed by air traffic control. Being able to see a UAV is also an important step towards integrating UAV’s into airspace. 

How can I find out the hours of service for my local control tower? 

Control tower hours of service are published in AIP supplments which can be found here (TIP: click on the latest supplement under the AIP Amendments section)

Do I fly a UAV using the same rules as per a pilot of any other aircraft? 

As a drone operator you are responsible under the Civil Aviation Act. You must give way to manned aircraft. You must understand and obey the relevant rules. For more information on the relevant rules please refer to the CAA website

Do I need restricted airspace to use a drone? 

There are limitations to where you can fly your UAV. Please refer to the Rules top tips. It’s important to note that as a guide you cannot fly in controlled airspace or within 4kms 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, heli-port etc. 

The local VNC (visual navigation chart) indicates that the area I want to fly in is a control zone from the ground surface up (SFC). Do I need to talk to anyone to fly around in the local park? 

Yes, Airways is responsible for controlled airspace. To ensure safety for all air users and passengers, you must get 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.

Rules Questions

What rules apply to flying a UAV / UAS/ Drone?

Check out the Rules top tips page for links to the relevant Civil Aviation Rule (CAR). It is important you know and understand your obligations when flying a UAV. The relevant rules are CAR Part 101 and CAR Part 102

Do any rules apply to me flying a UAV at the local park?

Yes – you need to understand the Civil Aviation rules in order to fly safely. UAVs 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. 

Do I need a Part 102 Operator Certificate?

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 website here.  

What are the key changes following the amendment of Part 101?

  • 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 the Advisory Circular

What is a shielded operation? 

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. 

How come I can purchase a small UAV from a local store and they don’t provide any information about regulations or rules? 

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. The CAA is also exploring working with the New Zealand Customs Service and/or Statistics New Zealand for information. 

What is CAA doing with UAVs /RPAS?

The CAA launched the amended Part 101 and new Part 102 operator certification rules on 1 August 2015. 

What happens when you exceed 25kg of weight for your UAV? 

Under the current Civil Aviation Rules, you require an authorisation if your UAV/ RPAS weighs more than 25kg or you need to apply for a Part 102 Unmanned Aircraft Operator Certificate. 

What’s the difference between a small UAV and a kite?

There are different Civil Aviation rules for the operation of a kite versus a UAV.

What is visual line of sight as defined by CAA? 

It means you must be able to see and maintain sight of your UAV 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.