Currently, the rules around flying and owning a drone in New Zealand are very simple. For a full copy they can be found on the Airshare website but for now we will summarise them;
New Zealand drone regulations are a little deeper than this but essentially if you comply with these you will, for the most part, be within the rules.
Worldwide the increase in drone ownership is growing year on year. This ranges from small entry level drones with a 60 to 100 metre range through to professional drones with 30-minute flight times and a 7-kilometre range. Many drones are purchased online from Chinese companies and therefore do not come with the local flight regulations. It is then left up to the new drone owner to investigate the laws themselves. Here-in-lies the problem as many people believe the rules only apply to bigger drones, professional drones or do not know there are any rules at all! From my experience there is also confusion over what the rules are. Here in Christchurch, the City Council allows drone operators to fly in most parks without seeking their permission provided the drone is no heavier than 1.5kg. However, parks that fall with 4 km of the airport, heritage or garden parks and cemeteries are no fly zones without council permission. Open air public pools, playgrounds and any council owned wet lands or wildlife sanctuaries also require council permission. Flying over council buildings, public roads or over large crowds requires part 102 certification. These rules apply across most of New Zealand but it is always important to ensure you check the local rules.
The Airmap app is a must have. You have at your fingertips, a tool that knows where you are, your proximity to airports, military installations and any no-fly zone right across New Zealand. It provides warnings and instructions and also allows you to plot and log your flights.
Mojo NZ Drones shares drone news from across the world. While researching the latest news it is becoming more and more evident that, worldwide, some individuals do not play by the rules. From criminals using drones to drop drugs and phones into prisons to the guy who flew his DJI Phantom 4 into a Blackhawk Helicopter to the person who TWICE flew their drone around Gatwick airport causing 15 hours of chaos. It is these kinds of careless individuals that will cause aviation authorities around the globe to crack down on recreational drone operators, reducing the opportunities to enjoy flying in some of the most wonderful areas on the planet and sharing our photos and videos on sites such as Airvuz and Dronestagram.
New Zealand drone operators are not immune from breaking the regulations. Prior to the CAA introducing the UAV regulations on August 1 2015 there were 52 incidents reported between 2007 and 2015. Since the laws were introduced there have been 12 incidents investigated by the CAA. So far there has only been one person prosecuted by the CAA over drone use. In July last year Simon Reeve was sentenced to make a $500 donation to charity and discharged without conviction on the charge of unnecessary endangerment.
The incident related to January 2015, when Reeve operated a drone in a controlled zone in close proximity to a helicopter which was conducting firefighting duties over the Pines Beach settlement, in North Canterbury.
In April 2017 an overseas visitor was fined $500 for flying his drone over the Auckland harbour bridge which consequently landed on one of the clip-on lanes. As he was a visitor and had not investigated the CAA laws he was given an infringement notice for his error.
As at this time there is a third incident that is in the early stages of progress. A man could face 14 years in jail for allegedly using a drone dangerously as helicopters and firefighters fought a 200-hectare Central Otago wildfire. Jorge Eduardo Riquelme Cruz, 33, of no fixed abode in Wanaka, has appeared in the Queenstown District Court. He is charged with having reckless disregard for the safety of firefighting helicopters that was likely to cause danger to those helicopters and pilots. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 14 years' imprisonment. He could face a further four months imprisonment and a $10,000 fine on a charge of operating an unmanned drone in a manner that caused unnecessary danger to firefighting pilots and their helicopters.
This latest alleged incident is by far the most serious New Zealand drone incident to date.
The question is; how do we educate people to the drone laws to minimise potentially serious breaches? Mojo NZ Drones provides drone familiarity sessions on request and provides the CAA regulations with every drone sold. For the New Zealand drones market moving forward, education by responsible suppliers is one answer. The possible development of a licensing system is another thought. And it will come to the point where all drones will need to be registered much like we do with our cars.
New Zealand drone pilots are well behaved generally. As with any burgeoning technology, there will always be teething incidents but with common sense these can be mitigated in conjunction with the regulations. And it is always polite to ask permission from others if you are going to fly your drone in their vicinity. I have never been denied permission and in asking people if it is ok and informing them of my intentions with the images I take, I have provided a positive experience for them towards drones and drone operators.
Fly safe and stick to the rules
GoPro’s announcement this week that it would exit the drone business was greeted by many observers as a foregone conclusion. Karma, the company’s first foray into drones had sold poorly after an embarrassing recall in 2016. Under pressure to cut costs amid slowing sales in its core action-camera business, GoPro’s hand was forced. Viewed in that light, Karma was just one more tech company side hustle that didn’t pay off.
But to shrug off GoPro’s drone is to ignore a larger question: why have American efforts to build a popular consumer drone failed? After all, the GoPro announcement follows the collapse of a similar effort from 3D Robotics, which similarly abandoned the consumer market in 2016 after the failure of its inaugural drone product, called Solo. While it is still relatively early in the history of consumer drones, the failures have left Chinese drone manufacturer DJI in a dominant position.
As it turns out, both GoPro and 3DR weren’t built to compete, observers say: they relied on contract manufacturers at a time when DJI, the dominant player, was designing and manufacturing every product itself. Making things worse, the American companies announced their products far in advance, giving DJI ample opportunity to catch up to any advertised features. When the American drones did arrive, they did so broken (in the case of Solo), or late and broken (in the case of Karma).
“DON’T TELEGRAPH YOUR MOVES TO THE INDUSTRY — ESPECIALLY IF YOU’RE NOT A BIG PLAYER.”
“The business lesson here is, don’t telegraph your moves to the industry — especially if you’re not a big player,” says Gerald Van Hoy, an independent consultant and analyst who covers the drone industry. “DJI is positioned well. They take advantage of everything that’s given to them, and they run with it — that’s why it’s hard to compete with them toe to toe. The only way you beat those guys is you come in quiet.”
Instead, American companies have sought to make a splash. For 3DR, that meant hiring Colin Guinn, the former head of DJI America, who helped lead design and marketing efforts for DJI’s popular Phantom drone. Guinn, who had become prominent in the drone community by posting videos about the Phantom to YouTube, had the credibility to promote Solo as the next evolution in consumer drones.
Solo was the first drone with integrated controls for GoPro cameras, the first with programmable flight paths, and the first to offer high-end customer service that included a no-questions-asked, 30-day money-back guarantee. When I saw it in 2015, I said it may have been the smartest drone ever.
But while Solo arrived on time, the separately sold gimbal — which stabilizes the camera, and is necessary for high-quality photo and video — was late. The combined package was expensive at $1,700. And early buyers found a wide range of bugs. 3DR sold only about half the units it projected, according to Forbes. Along the way, DJI — which owns its own factories — managed to slash prices for a combined drone and gimbal to about $1,000. Having spent most of the $200 million it raised, 3DR abandoned the hardware business.
“WE HAD A DRAMATICALLY BAD LAUNCH.”
GoPro began teasing the existence of Karma in May 2015, but it didn’t arrive until the end of 2016. Among its selling points was the fact that you could use its gimbal as a handheld stabilizer for the Hero line of action cameras, expanding its utility. Unfortunately, the $799 Karma shipped with a defect that could cause it to randomly lose power while it was in the sky. GoPro recalled all 2,500 units it had sold. The company lost $373 million for the year, largely because of the high cost of developing the drone.
In an interview this week, GoPro CEO Nick Woodman disputed the idea that Karma had been a failure. “Karma has been a commercial success for GoPro,” he said. “We had a dramatically bad launch. And the fact that in February of 2017 we were able to relaunch it, and have it become the second-best selling drone in the thousand-dollar-and-up category, is testament to the terrific concept of the versatile drone.”
But the market for consumer drones turned out to be smaller than GoPro expected, Woodman said. And ultimately, it didn’t have pockets deep enough to compete with DJI.
“We looked at how much we were spending on our drone program, relative to the number of units we were selling, and most importantly relative to the profit that we were making on the whole program,” he said. “It just became clear that the drone category is going to continue to be a thin-margin category. There’s incredibly stiff competition.”
After Solo collapsed, 3DR’s Guinn told Forbes that DJI’s vertical integration — the fact that it both designed and manufactured its own hardware — had represented an insurmountable obstacle. “What we realized is that it’s just going to be inherently much more difficult for a Silicon Valley-based, software-focused company to compete against vertically integrated powerhouse manufacturing company in China,” he told Forbes.
DJI’S DESIGN-AND-BUILD MODEL HAS CREATED A TOUGH OBSTACLE
This week, Woodman echoed that sentiment. “In the drone space specifically to be competitive, and make money doing it, I think a company would need to be vertically integrated,” he said. “Because that’s what DJI is. That’s what you’re up against. And they’re going to be able to make a profit at lower retail price points than anybody who isn’t vertically integrated.”
Van Hoy says the future of drones lies in finding uses that go beyond elaborate selfie-taking: drones that can sniff gas leaks, for example, or analyze your home to see where heat is leaking out of it. You might buy your next drone not at Best Buy, he says, but Home Depot.
“There has to be some application that’s going to bring more consumers to the market on drones,” Van Hoy says. “Otherwise you’re going to get the Christmas crowd. They’re going to play with it for 10 minutes, and then it’s going to the attic.”
By Casey Newton@CaseyNewton Jan 11, 2018
Sean O’Kane contributed to this report.
I began my career as a builder and progressed through to the owner of Mojo NZ Ltd. The first drone I owned is to this day lodged in a tree on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. We now provide drones to all industries from toys to racing drones to professional camera drones. This blog is a look at ourselves and the industry in general.