Got a drone for Christmas? Top tips for new owners from the Civil Aviation Authority

Owners may consider their drone to be a fun toy - but the CAA sees it as an aircraft.
Owners may consider their drone to be a fun toy - but the CAA sees it as an aircraft. Photo credit: File

Purchased or unwrapped a drone for Christmas? The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is reminding flyers to keep safe in the skies this summer and follow the safe flying rules as they prepare for take off.

While owners of a drone may consider it to be a fun toy, the CAA sees it as an aircraft which shares the same airspace used by passenger jets and all sizes of aircraft - including other drones.

The CAA is asking all drone pilots to take their role seriously and follow a few simple rules around flying through the skies this summer.

Anyone wishing to fly a drone in Aotearoa needs to follow the Part 101 drone rules, which are issued by the CAA, while those wishing to fly outside of these rules will need to apply for Part 102 certification.

The CCA has created a number of drone rules drone pilots need to follow while flying to keep themselves, others, and their aircraft safe and have shared their top seven tips to get flying safely this summer.

  1. Fly no higher than 120m (400 ft) above the ground. Flying below 120m will keep your drone below the height of other aircraft.
  2. Stay a safe and considerate distance away from people and buildings. This means don’t fly directly over people, unless they give you their permission.
  3. Don’t fly over private land, such as farms or houses, unless you have permission from the land owner. There are also different restrictions and guidelines set out by local councils which you will need to check before flying in public areas such as parks, beaches and reserves. You need a permit to fly on Department of Conservation land.
  4. Keep your drone in sight at all times - you can only fly only in daylight and when the visibility is good. Remember to stay clear of fog and cloud and other things that could impair line of sight with your drone.
  5. Stay 4km away from anywhere aircraft are landing or taking off. This includes helipads at hospitals and those used by sightseeing aircraft. Be aware that controlled airspace around airports extends well beyond the 4km limit; you must have clearance from air traffic control to operate in that area. Don't fly in special use airspace, such as low flying zones, danger, restricted or military operating Areas.
  6. It’s dangerous to fly drones anywhere other aircraft are operating. If you see another aircraft, stay well clear of it and land immediately.
  7. If you wish to fly in certain restricted zones or at night, you can perform a shielded operation but you must remain within 100m of, and below the height of the object providing the shield. There must also be a physical barrier like a building or stand of trees between your unmanned aircraft and the aerodrome. This barrier must be capable of stopping your aircraft in the event of a fly-away.

If you are unsure where the no-fly zones or restricted flight areas are, this information is listed on the website where you can log your flights, check and apply for permission to fly in particular zones.

This is just a highlight of some of the rules, be sure to know the rules before you fly. The CAA website has a number of resources and videos to help drone pilots get flying learn more at: