Man fined over mid-air drone, paraglider collision

It's the first prosecution of its type in New Zealand.
It's the first prosecution of its type in New Zealand. Photo credit: Getty.

A man has been fined over a mid-air collision between his drone and a paraglider in the southern Auckland region, the first prosecution of its type in New Zealand.

The crash between the drone and a trainee paraglider occurred in 2018 100m above Karioitahi Beach, near Waiuku, south of Auckland. 

In October last year, the pilot was found guilty of operating a drone in a manner that caused unnecessary endangerment and failing to give way and keep clear of a manned aircraft. On Thursday, the operator was convicted and fined $1000.

In his judgement, Judge Mina Wharepouri said the man was overly reliant on the view from his drone's camera and failed to maintain visual line of sight of the drone. 

The Civil Aviation Authority's (CAA) deputy chief executive of aviation safety, Dean Winter, says it is lucky the paraglider wasn't killed or seriously injured. He hopes it acts as a wake-up call for other drone operators. 

"This conviction shows there can be real consequences when drone users fail to follow the rules and put the lives of others at risk through their lack of understanding or carelessness," Winter says.

"Although the pilot of the paraglider pilot was able to safely walk away after the collision, the accident was deceptively dangerous and it was only down to sheer luck and the skill of the paraglider that there wasn’t a death that day."

The CAA says this prosecution is the first in New Zealand over a collision between a drone and a manned aircraft.

It says there are six key rules all drone operators should know: 

  • Always fly below 120 metres.
  • Don't fly over people without permission.
  • Keep your drone in sight at all times.
  • Stay 4km away from aerodromes and helipads.
  • Give way to all manned aircraft. Land immediately.
  • Don't fly over property without permission.