How CAA New Zealand Rules Differ from International Drone Regulations

How CAA New Zealand Rules Differ from International Drone Regulations

Flying drones can be a lot of fun and rewarding, but it's crucial to know the drone rules. In New Zealand, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) sets the guidelines. New Zealand's drone rules are stricter compared to international standards, especially in how they handle airspace and safety. These differences might affect how and where you can fly your drone.

Key Takeaways

  • New Zealand's drone rules are stricter compared to international standards.
  • CAA Part 101 and Part 102 offer different levels of drone operation requirements.
  • Privacy and legal rules in New Zealand are more comprehensive.

Understanding CAA New Zealand's Part 101 and Part 102

CAA New Zealand's rules for drones are divided into two main parts: Part 101, covering basic rules for most users, and Part 102, for those needing special certification.

Part 101 Rules Overview

Part 101 sets guidelines for recreational and most commercial drone operations. These rules ensure safety and regulate airspace usage without needing special permissions. 

Key points include:

  • Weight Limit: Drones must weigh less than 25 kg, and drones heavier than 15kg must be certified as airworthy.
  • Visual Line of Sight (VLOS): The operator must always keep the drone in sight, without the use of tools such as binoculars. Wearing FPV goggles is considered Beyond VLOS and must be accompanied by an observer.
  • Maximum Altitude: Drones cannot fly higher than 120 metres (400 feet) above ground level.
  • No-Fly Zones: Drones must not operate within 4 km of any aerodrome.
  • Airspace Awareness: Operators must stay clear of controlled airspace unless they have permission from Air Traffic Control, and have achieved an RPAS Certificate to Part 101.
  • Night Flying: Drones must not be flown during the hours of darkness without certification.
  • Shielded Operations: If flying below the height and within 100m of an object that shields your drone, such as a building or dense trees, you are permitted to fly at night. You are also permitted to fly within 4km of an aerodrome provided there is a physical barrier between it and the drone.

Safety measures are also in place, including not flying over people or property without permission. Drone operators should always prioritise avoiding collisions with other aircraft by landing immediately upon sighting other aircraft.

Part 102 Certification Process

Part 102 is for unmanned aircraft operators who require deviations from Part 101 or engage in higher-risk operations. 

Steps in the Part 102 certification process include:

  • Application: The drone operator must submit a detailed application to the CAA.
  • Fit and Proper Person: Attached to this application must be a FPP questionnaire to show you are an appropriate person to hold the certification and its responsibilities.
  • Exposition: Develop and submit with the application an operations manual outlining procedures and safety measures. This will typically include that individuals get a Professional RPAS Pilot Certificate to 102 Standard.
  • FPP Interview: When your application has been accepted and reviewed, you will have an interview with CAA to discuss the application and your appropriateness to be named Prime Person on the certificate.
  • Certification: If approved, the CAA will issue an Unmanned Aircraft Operator Certificate to the organisation.

This certification allows for a broader range of activities, such as flying at higher altitudes, or in restricted areas - and this is different for every operator, depending on the activities applied for and approved. Operator certification ensures that only qualified individuals conduct these complex operations.

Key Differences Between CAA NZ and International Regulations

The rules for drone operations in New Zealand differ from those in other countries, focusing on safety, pilot duties, and compliance. These differences impact how pilots operate drones, where they can fly, and the enforcement of regulations.

Pilot Responsibilities

In New Zealand, drone pilots must always keep their drones within VLOS and ensure they do not create hazards for people, property, or other aircraft. A unique responsibility in New Zealand includes gaining permission from landowners before flying over private property.

Internationally, some countries have less strict VLOS rules or allow for operations beyond VLOS (BVLOS) with proper authorization. However, gaining certification to operate BVLOS is uncommon in New Zealand. Privacy rules vary greatly internationally, and in some places, permission from landowners is not always required. Some countries have different rules depending on the weight of the drone, while New Zealand makes no distinction below 25kg.

Aircraft Operational Limitations

In New Zealand, drones cannot fly higher than 120 metres (400 feet) above ground level without certification. Flying within 4 km of an aerodrome or in controlled airspace without prior permission is prohibited. These limitations help prevent interference with manned aircraft and ensure safer skies.

International regulations may differ significantly. For example, in the United States, the maximum altitude is also 400 feet, but other countries may have limits as high as 150m or as low as 100m. Restrictions around airports, heliports, or controlled airspace can also vary.

Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement

The CAA NZ is strict about compliance with aviation rules. Pilots must obtain certification for certain types of operations, particularly for commercial use or night flying. Regular updates and safety briefings are often required to maintain certification. Enforcement includes fines and other penalties for breaches.

Elsewhere, compliance can range from very strict to relatively relaxed. Some countries have robust enforcement mechanisms similar to New Zealand, while others have minimal enforcement. Certification requirements for commercial use, night flying, or certain airspaces may also differ. Most of the Pacific Island states have aviation rules based on New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Rules, with the exception of Fiji who has Air Navigation Regulations, although the content and intent of these is very similar. This means learning the New Zealand rules means you can easily adapt should you ever fly in the Pacific Islands.

Recreational and Commercial Rules

Unlike some countries, New Zealand’s drone rules aren’t separated into recreational and commercial rules. All pilots must follow the same rules regardless, to ensure every flight is as safe as possible. 

In the USA for example, any recreational pilot needs to pass a free Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST), and a commercial pilot must hold a Remote Pilot Certificate. 

In New Zealand, if a pilot flies according to 101 rules they do not require certification of any kind, unless needing to fly within 4km of an aerodrome. If any pilot needs to fly outside of the Part 101 rules, they will need to hold a Part 102 Unmanned Aerial Operator Certificate, regardless of purpose.

Safety and Airspace Management

In New Zealand, drone operators must comply with specific safety and airspace management rules, which are more stringent than many international standards.

Airspace Restrictions

Airspace in New Zealand is classified into different zones such as controlled and restricted airspace. Drones cannot be flown above 120 metres (400 feet) without special permission. 

Controlled airspace often surrounds major airports and other busy aviation hubs, requiring approval from air traffic control before flying. Restricted airspace includes areas near military bases or other secure locations. 

Additionally, no-fly zones are set up around events like sports games or large public gatherings. Violating these airspace restrictions can result in significant fines or other penalties.

Legal and Privacy Concerns in Drone Use

Drone use brings up important legal and privacy concerns, including rules about flying over property, getting consent from property owners, and understanding laws set by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Property and Privacy Laws Related to Drone Flying

In New Zealand, drone users must respect property rights. Flying a drone over someone’s property without permission can lead to privacy issues, and is not permitted without proper certification. Both urban and rural areas have regulations that restrict flying near homes, commercial buildings, and farms. Avoid using drones to capture images or videos of people without their explicit consent to prevent legal actions.

It is crucial to avoid using drones to capture images or videos of people without their explicit consent. This can lead to legal actions if privacy is invaded. Understanding local privacy laws helps avoid violations and maintain ethical drone use.

Obtaining Permissions and Understanding Consent

Drone operators must obtain permission from property owners before flying over private land, including commercial and residential properties, as well as private beaches and lakes. Contact property owners in advance and explain your purpose to secure consent. 

Consent is also necessary when capturing footage that includes individuals. The CAA provides guidelines on how to approach this, ensuring that all activities are lawful and respectful of personal privacy. Adhering to these rules helps avoid conflicts and maintains good community relations.

Consent may be necessary to fly over public lands, especially any Protected Areas under the administration of DoC. Many local authorities have published a list of public spaces that do or do not allow drone flight, and if you are unsure you need to check with them before flying.

Ready to master drone regulations and ensure safe flights? Sign up for a DroneTrust course today and stay ahead with expert guidance on New Zealand's CAA rules.

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