Quick reference provides a general guide to some key flying rules.

It is not a substitute for a comprehensive knowledge of Civil Aviation rules and it is not a representation of Civil Aviation rules in their entirety.

Airspace Knowledge

You must be aware of the airspace designation (under Part 71) and any applicable airspace restrictions in the area you intend to operate. 

Where can I fly my UAV?

New Zealand has controlled airspace where air traffic control is provided and outside of this the airspace is termed uncontrolled airspace. You can fly your UAV in uncontrolled airspace subject to several conditions. To operate in controlled airspace, you must have specific authorisation from Air Traffic Control (ATC) which is provided by Airways, unless you meet the requirements of a shielded operation which comprise:

1) An operation of an aircraft within 100 m of, and below the top of, a natural or man-made object; and

2) Outside of the boundary of the aerodrome; and

3) In airspace that is physically separated from the aerodrome by a barrier that is capable of arresting the flight of the aircraft.

Controlled airspace is around the seventeen aerodromes where a control tower operates. You can view controlled airspace on the AirShare Maps page or view the coordinates (under Controlled Airspace (CTR) 

The Civil Aviation Rules prohibit a UAV being operated within a 4km radius from any uncontrolled aerodrome unless you meet the requirements of a shielded operation (see above). The rules also restrict operations at other specially designated areas, some of which are permanent and others notified daily by Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) distributed by Airways. These can be found on IFIS under Briefing (Area or Specific).

Airspace dimensions, certificated aerodromes and designated areas can be found on Visual Navigation Charts (VNC) available for purchase here

In addition, you must avoid operating over people or property without prior consent. Check out the AirShare property owner consent list here

When can I fly my UAV?

You can only operate during daylight hours. For practical purposes this means after sunrise and before sunset.

How high can I fly?

You must keep your UAV below 400FT Above Ground Level (AGL) except if meeting specific conditions in the Civil Aviation Rules. If you wonder why we are talking in feet, it is because the aviation industry measures height in feet. 

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 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.

Above ground level diagram

Know the rules

It is important you know the Civil Aviation Rules.

Two key points are: 

1. If your UAV is over 25kg maximum weight you will need to hold a Part 102 Unmanned Aircraft Operator Certificate.

2. If your UAV is 25kg or under your operation is governed by Civil Aviation Rule Part 101 unless you hold a Part 102 Unmanned Aircraft Operator Certificate.

Civil Aviation Rule Part 101 includes that you must not operate:

  • In a manner that creates a hazard to aircraft or to persons or property, including by dropping any object; and  
  • That creates a risk or hazard 
  • On or within 4 km of an uncontrolled aerodrome, unless the operation is undertaken in accordance with an agreement with the aerodrome operator; and
  • Over any active movement area or runway and not above 400ft AGL (above ground level) within 4km of an uncontrolled aerodrome without CAA approval and an observer on site.
  • Within 4km of any aerodrome, unless under the direct supervision of the holder of a pilot license, approved person or organisation, or instructor qualification issued by Model Flying NZ (MFNZ).
  • In a designated restricted area or military operating area, unless approval has been given by the administering authority responsible for the airspace, or within a low flying zone.
  • Beyond visual line of sight of the aircraft
  • At night unless indoors or as a "shielded operation", which means within 100m of a structure and below the top of the structure. 

You should also make yourself aware of potentially hazardous areas. Please check the AIP (under the Permanent and Temporary Airspace links) to find out where these areas are.

Interested in more information? 

  • Refer to the Where Do I Start AirShare page  
  • The Airways National Briefing Office can supply the latest NOTAMs (Notice To Airmen) and other information pertaining to routes or areas on the day of operation. These can be found on IFIS under Briefing (Area or Specific).   
  • Locations of uncontrolled aerodromes  
  • Identification of the aerodrome operators (under ‘Operational Data’ Link)   
  • Dimensions of Control Zones (CTRs) around Airways-manned towers (under Controlled Airspace (CTR) Link)  
  • The lowest levels of controlled airspace throughout NZ  (under Permanent Airspace/ Controlled Airspace (CTA) Link)  
  • The dimensions of all CAA designated areas where UAV operations are not allowed or prohibited (under the Permanent and Temporary Airspace links)  

Who can I contact for more info?

CAA is the regulator of UAV operations in New Zealand. Please contact them to find out whether your operation falls under the rule framework and for advice on how to plan a safe, legal operation.

Call the CAA on 04 560 9400, or email at rpas@caa.govt.nz.