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Fly the right way

Like all good pilots, you should complete a pre-flight checklist.

Flying drones is fun and it’s something more and more of us are doing. But your drone is an aircraft, which makes you a pilot. As a pilot, you must follow New Zealand Civil Aviation Rules. These help ensure you fly your drone considerately and responsibly, while still allowing you to have a good time. Consider others, be responsible – that’s how you fly the right way.

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Pre-flight checklist

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Consider others

As well as safety, drone pilots must always consider other people’s privacy.

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Be responsible

Flying is always about safety first and that includes drones. Drone pilots must follow New Zealand Civil Aviation rules to keep people and property safe.

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No-fly zones

It can be tricky to find a safe area to fly your drone. Sometimes even your own backyard can be unsafe, especially if it is close to where other aircraft operate.

That's because drones aren't allowed to fly within 4km of an airport or helipad. There may also be controlled or special use airspace which extends beyond the 4km limit.

Check out the Airshare website to learn more about airspace and where you can fly.

This is where you can also request a clearance from air traffic control to fly in controlled airspace.

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Report unsafe flying

If a drone presents an immediate danger,
call 111 and ask for the Police.

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To report a rule breach contact the Civil Aviation Authority.

freephone: 0508 4 SAFETY (0508 472 338)

You will need to provide the time and location of the incident, and any other details about the person flying the drone.

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Be aware

There are some exceptions to the rules outlined here. The full rules are at www.caa.govt.nz/drones

If you breach New Zealand Civil Aviation Rules while flying your drone you could face disciplinary action including prosecution.

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Training

Training is available to help you understand the New Zealand Civil Aviation rules for drones.

More information and a list of approved training organisations is in the drone section of the Civil Aviation Authority’s website.

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Frequently asked questions

How do I report a breach of privacy?

Complaints about privacy breaches are outside the CAA’s functions as the regulator of the civil aviation system. If you have a serious privacy dispute with a drone operator, please contact the New Zealand Police.

Drone operators should be familiar with privacy implications resulting from misuse of drones. Drone operators should always respect people's privacy and stay a considerate distance away from people and private property. Drone operators should ask for consent before filming or taking photographs of people in places where there is an expectation of privacy.

Can I convert my licence from another country into a drone licence for New Zealand?

No, as New Zealand doesn’t offer a licence for remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), including drones. All drone pilots must follow the Civil Aviation rules that apply to drones, CAR Part 101, which essentially requires they consider others and be responsible when flying.

 

Do I need a licence or permit to fly a drone in New Zealand?

No, however you must comply with the Civil Aviation rules that apply to drones. These are CAR Part 101, which essentially require pilots to consider others and be responsible when flying. In addition, all pilots must follow any rules the Department of Conservation (DoC), New Zealand Transport Authority and local councils may have in place. If you want to fly outside the rules in Part 101, you must get an Unmanned Aircraft Operator Certificate under Civil Aviation Rule Part 102.

Do I need a licence or permit to operate a drone commercially?

No, you can operate under CAR Part 101 of the Civil Aviation rules, which essentially require pilots to consider others and be responsible when flying. However, these days more and more companies that hire remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) operators are requesting they hold a current Part 102 certificate.

Can I bring a drone into New Zealand?

Yes, you can. But make sure you understand and follow the AVSEC rules about carrying batteries on aeroplanes.

Where can I fly my drone?

New Zealand is a great place for flying drones, so long as you always consider others and be responsible. Part of that is ensuring you always have permission to fly your drone where you want it to go.

If you plan to fly over private property, you must get the owner or occupier’s permission first, and you must always ask before flying over people. Also check with local councils and the Department of Conservation (DoC) if you plan to fly in parks or reserves.

There are other no-fly zones around New Zealand. To see where these are, go to the maps section of www.airshare.co.nz to see the controlled airspace around New Zealand, including airports, aerodromes and special use airspace. We recommend you sign up and log in to airshare.co.nz, so you can use the website’s My Flight section that helps you list flight plans and request clearance to fly in restricted areas.

Do you have to be over 18 years old to fly a drone?

No. Anyone of any age can fly a drone, so long as they can control it and fly it responsibily and considerately.

Do I need to register my drone?

No, you do not need to register your drone.

What are the rules for flying a drone in New Zealand?

We require all drone pilots to consider others and be responsible when flying. You can find information about drone flying rules on the remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) page of the Civil Aviation website, including links to the rules.

How do I get a Part 102 certificate to fly a drone?

When applying for a Part 102 certificate you need to complete and return the required forms with the appropriate supporting documents. As part of the application process you must have a ‘Prime Person’ interview with one of our RPAS flight operation inspectors. This will take up to a few hours and they will come to you. You must pay upfront for two hours of the inspector’s time when you apply. A final invoice is sent when your application is closed.

You’re entitled to a free one-hour meeting with a RPAS flight operations inspector before you submit your Part 102 application. You must have completed some sort of RPAS (drone) training and/or have proof of logged flight time. The RPAS page of the Civil Aviation website has a list of approved organisations and people who provide RPAS training.

How do I make a complaint about a drone?

All drone pilots must consider others and be responsible when they fly. If you believe a drone is breaking this requirement, you can call 0508 4 SAFETY (0508 472 338) or email [email protected]. You can also use the online reporting form.

When making a complaint please provide as much detail as possible such as:

  • the date, time and location of the event

  • your contact details

  • any identifying details about the drone operator – name and address (if known), a photograph or detailed description of the person flying the drone.

If you believe a drone is creating an immediate safety hazard, please call emergency services – dial 111 and ask for the police.

Can I fly a drone at a public event?

All drone pilots must fly responsibly, in a way that isn’t causing a hazard to others, and flying drones over public events or any large gathering of people is considered a safety risk. However, you can fly over people or events if you have the consent of everyone you are flying over.

Do I need to do a drone-flying training course? If so where can I do one?

No, you don’t but it’s recommended. The RPAS page of the Civil Aviation website has a list of approved organisations and people who provide RPAS training.

Can I fly my drone at night?

You may fly your drone at night if it’s indoors or in a shielded operation environment. See the rules and this Advisory Circular for information on shielded operations. But do remember you must always be able to see your drone at all times.

Can I film sport training or games?

All drone pilots must fly responsibly, in a way that isn’t causing a hazard to others and flying drones over sports training or games could create a safety risk. However, you can fly over people if you have the consent of everyone you are flying over.

Can I operate over Department of Conservation land, such as parks, walking tracks or lakes? What about council land?

Part of flying a drone responsibly means you must have permission from landowners before you fly over their property – that includes conservation and council land. See the property owner consent information page at www.airshare.co.nz for the details of DoC and New Zealand councils’ consent processes.

All drone pilots must have a concession (a permit) from the Department of Conservation (DoC) to fly a drone of any size on public conservation land. Also see the section CAR 101.207(a)(1) in the advisory circular AC101-1 for guidance around getting property owners’ consent.

 

Are there rules for drone racing?

Most drone racing is flown under ‘First Person View’ (FPV). Section CAR 101.209 in the advisory circular AC101-1 has guidance for how you do this safely. Always remember you must consider others and be responsible when flying your drone.

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