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.
Before you fly
- Aircraft must NOT exceed 25kg and must always be safe to operate and well maintained.
- You must take steps to minimise hazards to people, property and other aircraft.
- Only fly during daylight, unless you are doing a shielded operation.
- Give way to all crewed aircraft e.g planes, helicopters, hang gliders, and paragliders. Land your aircraft immediately if another aircraft approaches.
- You must be able to see your unmanned aircraft with your own eyes at all times. Don’t watch it through binoculars, a monitor or smartphone. Do not fly it behind objects or through or above fog and cloud.
- Fly below 120 metres (400 feet) above ground level.
- Get consent before flying over people and property.
- There are several no-fly zones – check for any airspace restrictions in your area before you fly.
Share the skies - drone rules brochure [PDF 565 KB]
Where can you fly?
Gaining the full picture of airspace where you are permitted to fly is complicated. CAA strongly encourages all drone pilots to undergo training before attempting to access and interpret the below resources.
Maps showing the boundaries of permanent uncontrolled, controlled, and special use airspace, called Visual Navigation Charts (VNCs), are available in hardcopy for purchase from the Aeronautical Information Shop(external link). Alternatively, up-to-date maps with low level airspace marked on them (including VNCs) from the publisher can be viewed digitally at Flight Advisor(external link).
- Temporary airspace is currently not graphically displayed on the VNC maps. To gain a full picture of all airspace that you need to know about, you will need to check both NOTAMs and Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP) Supplements.
- Graphical NOTAMs that touch the ground i.e. airspace where drones commonly fly, can be viewed at Flight Advisor(external link). This is easier to interpret than textual NOTAMs and is viewable without requiring a registration. Further graphical information for all NOTAMs can be found at PreFlight(external link).
- AIP Supplements can be viewed at AIP New Zealand(external link). You will need to scroll to the bottom of the page.
- Outside of controlled airspace you can make your flight(s) known to other manned and unmanned aircraft by registering to use Flight Advisor(external link) and submitting an Advisory. Doing so provides other aviators notification of your flight(s) and it also allows you to receive notification (SMS or email) of any other traffic that may be in your area. Registration is free but a form of identification will be required depending on the level of access you wish to gain.
- You may be able to fly in controlled airspace by obtaining air traffic control authorisation from Airways. You can request this authorisation through AirShare using the My Flights(external link) tool.
- Stay 4 km away from all aerodromes - unless you’ve got permission (with some exceptions, see ‘shielded operation’ below)
- The vicinity of the 4km boundary from all NZ aerodromes and heliports can be viewed in Flight Advisor and if you register you will be able to view the latest contact information from the AIP when you submit an advisory within the 4km boundary. If required, see AIP New Zealand(external link) to get full aerodrome details.
- For uncontrolled aerodromes you will need to gain agreement from the aerodrome operator.
- For controlled aerodromes you will need to gain authorisation from air traffic control. Use the same AirShare My Flights(external link) tool as this will also give you your controlled airspace authorisation.
- You don’t need permission to fly in controlled airspace, or within 4km of any aerodrome if you can conduct your flight as a shielded operation, and in the case of aerodromes, also have a physical barrier between your drone and the aerodrome.
- Do not fly in special use airspace without the permission of the administering authority. For example, military operating areas or restricted 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.
- Check with your local council or the Department of Conservation before flying in public places like parks and reserves. Your regional council’s website for example will have information about drone use in your area. You must apply for a permit from the Department of Conservation to fly over conservation land.
Drone use on conservation land(external link)
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 organisation or 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.
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)
Model Flying New Zealand(external link)
Part 101 requires operators to get 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.
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.
If you need to fly outside the Part 101 rules, you will need to hold a Part 102 unmanned aircraft operator certificate. The certification process requires you to show how you're going to manage the risks associated with operating your aircraft outside the Part 101 rules.
Part 102 certification