When flying unmanned aircraft you need to follow the part 101 rules. If you aren’t able to follow the rules outlined below you must apply for a part 102 certification.

The rules

  • Aircraft must not exceed 25kg and must always be safe to operate.
  • You must take steps to minimize hazards to people, property and other aircraft
  • Only fly during daylight, unless you are doing a shielded operation
  • Give way to all crewed aircraft
  • You must be able to see your unmanned aircraft with your own eyes all the time. Don’t watch it through binoculars, a monitor or smartphone. You must be able to see it with your own eyes all the time. And do not fly it behind objects or through or above fog and cloud.
  • Fly below 120 metres (400 feet) above ground level
  • Check for any airspace restrictions in your area before you fly
  • Stay 4km’s away from all aerodromes - unless you’ve got clearance from the aerodrome operator. See Aerodromes section.
  • You may be able to fly in controlled airspace by obtaining air traffic control clearance from Airways. Check the AirShare website(external link) for more information.
  • Do not fly in special use airspace without the permission of the administering authority. For example, military operating areas.
  • It's safer not to fly over people. If you need to, only fly above people if you have asked for their consent
  • Get consent of the property owner or person in charge of the land you want to fly over.
  • Don't fly behind objects or through or above fog and cloud.
  • Check with your local council or the Department of Conservation before flying in public places like parks and reserves.

Aerodromes

Under Part 101 Gyrogliders and Parasails, Unmanned Aircraft (including Balloons), Kites, and Rockets - Operating Rules, you must get an agreement from the aerodrome operator before flying your unmanned aircraft within 4 km of their aerodrome. This includes the helipads at hospitals, and also those used by helicopters conducting scenic flights.

Contact details for aerodrome operators can be found on the AirShare website(external link).

To be able to fly within 4 km of an aerodrome, you must also hold an appropriate pilot qualification, or be under the direct supervision of someone who does. This means the holder of a Part 61 pilot licence, a glider or microlight pilot certificate, or an unmanned aircraft pilot certificate issued by an approved Part 141 training provider.

You must also have an observer with you while flying, who will be responsible for maintaining situational awareness and providing you with information about any other aircraft that may be approaching or operating nearby.

When flying near an aerodrome, always stay well clear of all other aircraft, and never operate over an active runway strip or area where aircraft taxi. Control line model aircraft must also remain clear of such areas.

Consent

Part 101 requires operators to obtain the consent of property owners and people that they are flying over. Remember:

  • You must not fly over people unless you have their consent; and
  • You must not fly your aircraft over any property unless prior consent has been obtained from any persons occupying that property or the property owner.

If you cannot obtain consent, or obtaining consent would be impractical, this may indicate that your operation is too hazardous to be conducted under the Part 101 rules. You can apply to us to be certificated under Part 102, which then allows us to work through different options with you. It may be possible to relax or remove one or both of the consent requirements.

More information is provided in Advisory Circular AC101-1 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) under 25 kilograms - Operating in compliance with Part 101 Rules.

Special use airspace

Sometimes, airspace is designated “Special Use”. There are specially-designated zones or areas where unmanned aircraft cannot fly without special permission, such as a military operating areas, restricted areas, and low flying zones.

Airspace can also be temporarily designated “Special Use” to help a police, military, or search and rescue operation. On the other hand, some areas are designated specifically for model aircraft flying.

Full lists of airspace designated Special Use:

AIP NZ(external link)
AirShare(external link)
Model Flying New Zealand(external link)

Shielded operations

A shielded operation is a flight where your aircraft remains within 100 metres of, and below the top of, a natural or man-made object. For example, a building, tower, or trees.

When flying as a shielded operation you are allowed to fly at night, or within controlled airspace without Air Traffic Control clearance, as other aircraft are unlikely to be flying so low and close to structures.

Shielded operations within 4 km of aerodromes

If you are relying on a shielded operation to fly your unmanned aircraft within 4 km of an aerodrome, then in addition to remaining within 100 metres 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.

Before conducting a shielded operation, make sure you familiarise yourself with the rules in Part 101, and the advice in the advisory circular.

 Ask us about unmanned aircraft

If you have any questions about this topic, use our contact form, or email rpas@caa.govt.nz