Intro to Part 101

Part 101 applies to compliant unmanned aircraft under 25 kg maximum take-off weight (MTOW). To operate any aircraft over this weight, and for operations that cannot comply with Part 101, the operator must be certificated under Part 102.

Unmanned aircraft weighing between 15 and 25 kg MTOW must be constructed or inspected, approved and operated under the authority of an Approved Person or Organisation under Rule 101.202.

The Basics

There are 12 key requirements under Part 101.

  • Aircraft must not exceed 25 kg MTOW, and must always be safe to operate
  • Take all practicable steps to minimize hazards to persons, property and other aircraft (ie, don’t do anything hazardous)
  • Fly only in daylight, unless conducting a shielded operation.
  • Give way to all crewed aircraft
  • You must be able to see the aircraft with your own eyes (eg, not through binoculars, a monitor, or smartphone) to ensure separation from other aircraft (or use an observer to do this in certain cases)
  • Do not fly your aircraft higher than 120 metres (400 feet) above ground level (unless certain conditions are met)
  • Have knowledge of airspace restrictions that apply in the area you want to operate
  • Do not fly closer than four kilometres from any aerodrome (unless certain conditions are met)
  • When flying in controlled airspace, obtain an air traffic control clearance issued by Airways. See the airshare website.
  • Do not fly in special use airspace without the permission of the administering authority of the area (eg, military operating areas or restricted areas)
  • Get consent from anyone you want to fly above
  • Get the consent of the property owner or person in charge of the area you are wanting to fly above - check with your local council or Department of Conservation before flying in public places like parks and reserves.

This list should not substitute for a full reading of Part 101. You must conduct a thorough assessment of your operation and understand the rules that apply before you fly. Also see the Advisory Circulars for advice on how to comply with the rules.

To help guide you through your compliance requirements see the Part 101 Matrix.


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;

It is important to note that this is only one aspect of the risk mitigation required under Part 101. There is still an overarching obligation to take all practicable steps to avoid any hazards to people, property, and other aircraft.

If you cannot obtain consent, or obtaining consent would be impractical, this may indicate that your operation is too hazardous to be conducted under Part 101. You can apply to the CAA 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 about consent is provided in Advisory Circular AC101-1.


Under Part 101, 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.

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.

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.

The AIP NZ, airshare, and Model Flying New Zealand have a full list of airspace designated Special Use.

Night Operations

Aircraft cannot be flown outdoors at night, unless flying within a ‘shielded operation’.

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 ATC 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 the shielded operation provision 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, eg a building or tree, 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 using the shielded operation provisions, make sure you familiarise yourself with the rules in Part 101, and the advice in the Advisory Circular.