The pilot of a rescue helicopter mission on Sunday night has said the actions of a careless drone operator could have had "huge consequences" and caused "a very nasty catastrophe".
James Taylor was flying the Westpac Rescue Helicopter to a car accident north of Auckland just after 8pm on Sunday night, when the aircraft narrowly avoided a collision with a drone above Takapuna.
"It gave us a bit of a fright - we didn't see it until it was pretty much on the helicopter because drones are so small," he said.
"In fact, we spotted the LED light on it, which got our attention - but it happened so quick by the time we noticed it, it had passed."
At a height of 400 metres, the drone was nearly four times higher than its legal height.
The rescue chopper was travelling at 250km/h, so a collision with a drone could have caused serious damage and possibly cost lives.
"If it had taken down the helicopter, that would obviously affect the crew in the helicopter," Mr Taylor said.
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"Plus we were over quite a built-up area, so if it came into a built-up area it would have been a very nasty catastrophe."
It also put at risk the health of the car accident victims who were waiting for the rescue helicopter to assist them.
Mr Taylor hopes the close call will make people check out the rules and laws about flying drones before something worse happens.
"The message to people is go out and enjoy your drones; they're great tools for all sorts of things - but make sure you comply with the rules."
Mr Taylor said they have no idea who was operating the drone - and due to being on an emergency call, they didn't have the time to search the area to find out.
The incident has been reported to police and aviation authorities.