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
Two years ago, I purchased my first camera drone. It was a simple entry level drone bought online. The X6G camera drone. A great first drone to test my skills as a complete novice. Drones in New Zealand were becoming “a thing” and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. As you might remember, my first blog “flying plastic and trees” talked about how I over estimated my abilities and flew my beloved X6G drone into a tree at our holiday home. My desire to snap that ultimate shot went unfulfilled for two years.
With starting up my business Mojo NZ Drones, to service the New Zealand Drone market, time has been short for any getaways to the holiday home. Sourcing drones from around the world takes time and energy while creating contacts in the New Zealand drone market is even tougher. Web design, SEO, Facebook, Instagram, blogging, it all takes time and research. But so does finding that ultimate shot. I often find myself driving somewhere and thinking, “this would make a great drone image”. Stopping was always out of the question as I had somewhere to be. Recently however I have taken the time to stop, set up my DJI Phantom 4 Pro (yes I couldn’t help myself when they hit the market) and take that “perfect” drone shot.
The results have been varied, check them out here http://www.thepictaram.club/instagram/mojonz but the reality is I am not the worlds best photographer, nor am I the worlds greatest drone pilot. But what is true is the more I fly the better I become. I even took my drone out over the lake this week - a first for me. My heart was pounding but I got over it and from there I got some great shots of the holiday house from a unique perspective never seen in the 60 years it has stood on this site.
I have also become a better photographer over time as I fly more often and mess around with the settings more. My partner is a fantastic photographer and has given me plenty of tips and encouragement, but mainly I have improved from flying and photographing more often.
The DJI Phantom 4 Pro does make this much easier with its impressive GPS System allowing more time to focus on taking the shot than controlling the drone. This drone is simply the best consumer drone currently on the market and New Zealand drone users are increasingly turning to DJI technology.
However, I speak to hundreds of people who come to shows and markets and they all want to have the latest and flashiest drone available. Even though they have never flown a drone before. In New Zealand drones are freely available to anyone with the cash. However, knowledge of the CAA regulations is very low. This recipe of no experience, no knowledge of the regulations and a powerful drone is an accident waiting to happen. At Mojo NZ Drones we are constantly encouraging our customers to aim a little lower with a simple entry level camera drone like the X6G. Jumping straight into a DJI with no previous experience is like buying a v8 before you get your drivers license.
Once you have learned the basics of flying and understand the rules and regulations (we offer free CAA handouts to all of our customers) then it is time to step up into an Intermediate drone such as the X8G. Heavier, more powerful, better camera resolution and easier to control. The cost of this type of drone is round $300 NZD but again it offers amazing quality at a good price. It flies higher, further and longer and is a great introduction to larger camera drones. Another option is the CX-20, slightly more expensive but has more bells and whistles, GPS hold, altitude hold, RTH. It takes more calibration but it is the top end of the intermediate drones.
My point here is that it is better to spend $120 on an entry level drone to begin with, than $2,799 on a DJI Phantom 4 Pro as your first drone then watch it crash and burn. That is an expensive mistake to make. From experience, my first drone is still in the tree I flew it into two year ago!
With summer in full swing in New Zealand, it’s time to get your drone and get flying! New Zealand drone pilots are among some of the best. Stay safe, stay away from the airports and stay inside the rules.
By Justin Dove – Mojo NZ Drones - #welovedrones – Drones New Zealand
New Zealand's commercial drone manufacturers are successfully finding niche markets as the potential for the unmanned flying machines takes off. While unable to compete on price with large Chinese drone makers, several Kiwi companies are finding specialised uses for drones, which are already saving business time and money.
Currently, 70 per cent of commercial drones are used for aerial photography, 8 per cent for power line inspection and 2 per cent for agricultural work, according to information provided by UAVNZ. The industry body's chairman, Andy Grant, said there was "huge" potential for drone use in core New Zealand industries like agriculture, construction and forestry.
For example, Grant's company ASG Technologies has developed a drone capable of carrying out forestry work that would ordinarily take six workers up to an entire day in some six minutes.
Instead of requiring workers to haul 1km of steel rope above felled trees in order for them to be collected, ASG's drone - one of the largest industrial drones in the country -- is able to carry 14kg of rope the entire distance in a single flight. The savings in time and money were, clearly, enormous, Grant said. The drone was currently being used by forestry company Hancock Forest Management.
Drones are also being used to inspect tall buildings and other inaccessible infrastructure, something that had proven extremely useful in the Christchurch rebuild. Farmers, too, could be saving hours and thousands of dollars using drones for spraying, observation, stock management and, potentially, preventing cattle rustling by automatically sending out a drone when an animal is stolen from its paddock.
"The agricultural stuff, when you consider New Zealand, that is really, really low-hanging fruit," said Grant.
New Zealand companies were also looking at the emerging technology of "tethered" drones; aircraft connected to an operating box by a thin wire allowing them to fly for hours, even days. without needing the battery to be charged. Another growing sector was survey work, using drones to produce 3D models accurate to within a few centimetres with the aircraft taking an image every few of seconds. "This technique was used to produce a 3D model of an air accident site and to quickly map the relative location of all of the crashed aircraft parts," Grant said.
The software could also seamlessly stitch together thousands of high-resolution pictures to create images of vast areas.
The real estate industry is already well and truly on board with drones due to their aerial image-taking capabilities. One real estate company had become registered with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and established an in-house drone operation. "An aerial overview is quickly becoming a required offering in real estate marketing."
Drones, often associated with the United States military, have their sinister side and Grant said his company was working on technology that could be utilised by correctional facilities to disable drones carrying nefarious goods. "If you can imagine a drone that could carry a kilo's payload, and you'd get one of those for about $10,000 these days. You could potentially set that up to launch it autonomously from anywhere in the world with the push of a button and it would fly over a corrections facility and maybe drop a loaded pistol or something in the middle of the yard, or a kilo of drugs. It's a real issue."
Another risk was gangs or criminals using drones to carry out crimes or attack foes without being detected. Grant declined to elaborate on what this drone-disabling technology involved at this time. The next major breakthrough in drone technology would be when drones were allowed to work beyond the line of sight of operators, something that is being trialled in a dedicated drone airspace in Canterbury. "The speed of development in the drone-sector is breath-taking," Grant said. "The drones themselves are almost daily increasing in payload capacity, endurance and range. Their on-board sensors are increasing in sophistication and they are becoming progressively more autonomous." Within 20 to 30 years drones the size of 787 aircraft would come into existence, he said.
There are two major drone manufacturers in this country: Altus Intelligence, which provides drones to American news giant CNN, and Raglan company Aeronavics, which has been successfully creating drones that perform specialist tasks, Grant said. There are also a number of smaller and hobbyist drone makers that regularly come up with new and innovative technologies. New Zealand's regulations around drones use are more relaxed than elsewhere in the world due to updated civil aviation rules introduced in 2015.
"If you could dream it, and prove you could do it safely with a drone, you were allowed to do it," Grant said. To date, the CAA has issued certificates to 92 New Zealand companies to operate drones. Airways New Zealand, the country's air traffic controllers, has also been involved in creating the foundations of a drone traffic management system.
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.