Frequently Asked Questions about Unmanned Aircraft

Can I fly my RPA in a public park?

Yes, within the requirements of Part 101. This will mean the owner of the park, usually the council, needs to give consent for flying your RPA. The airshare™ web site has a handy list of Councils that allow this. Remember that the other conditions of Part 101 still apply, eg, not flying above 120 metres (400 feet).

Can I fly my RPA over private property?

Yes, but you are required under Part 101 to seek consent first from the property owner. The property owner is best placed to advise you of potential hazards and people who may be affected by the flight. The process of obtaining consent will also enable you to discuss what is and what isn’t appropriate with the property owner. There’s more information on consent in the Advisory Circulars.

How do I know if I fit into the Part 101 requirements?

On the Forms page, we’ve provided a Part 101 Rule Compliance Matrix. Completing this will show you if your flying fits into Part 101. We’ve provided 12 key points in the Intro to Part 101 but there’s no substitute for reading the rules.

I want to fly my drone commercially – do I need to get a certificate?

Not necessarily. The rules don’t distinguish between commercial and non-commercial operations. Use the matrix to see if you comply with Part 101. If you can’t, then consider if you want to certificate under Part 102 – there’s another matrix to help you with this. And if you go ahead, we’ve provided a sample exposition to help you. These are on the Forms page.

What’s an exposition?

An exposition is a manual (or series of manuals) that contains an operator's procedures and explains how you will comply with the Civil Aviation Rules, and the steps you will use to identify and mitigate the risks in your proposed operation. It will also detail how you ensure this continues to happen.

If the council or Department of Conservation has banned the use of RPAs in a certain area, can I apply for a Part 102 certificate that allows me to fly in this area?

Generally no. A Part 102 certificate issued by the CAA will not overrule any legislative requirements, including local laws or by-laws.

How long will it take to get certification and what will it cost?

A feature of Part 102 is that certification is tailored to the specifics of the operation. Some may be very complex, while others quite simple. For example, a farmer wanting to fly an RPA at night (on their own property in a remote area) is likely to gain certification faster (and for less cost) than a business wanting to use one in a congested urban centre.

The expected cost for a simple operation could be around $1500, but be aware this will vary widely depending on the type of operation.

Providing a complete and accurate application will help. Use the matrixes we have provided, and the sample exposition, on our Forms page.

How do I find out about this airspace stuff?

Airspace has specially designated areas to keep everyone safe. If you fly a drone, you need to understand airspace.

If you’re new to the aviation scene, airspace can seem a bit complicated at first, so we recommend you go along to a model flying club, or flight training organisation, to learn more about it. Some flight training organisations conduct courses that include flight planning, radio communication and navigation.

There are special conditions around aerodromes and ‘controlled airspace’.

You must not fly within 4 km of an aerodrome published in the Aeronautical Information Publication NZ (AIP) unless certain conditions are met. There's more information on Aerodromes in Advisory Circular AC101-1 (PDF).

Study the rules and Advisory Circulars if this affects your operation.

Airspace around major airports is designated ‘controlled airspace’. To fly in these areas you need to contact the Air Traffic Control unit responsible for that airspace. Yet there are some exceptions. Some controlled airspace may have an area specially designated (known as a Danger Area) for model aircraft use. Also, a type of operation called a ‘shielded operation’ can operate within controlled airspace. Again, see the rules and Advisory Circulars for more information about this.

The airshare™ web site has a map showing areas of controlled airspace around New Zealand, but remember that this isn’t the official document – you need the Visual Navigation Charts for the official airspace designations.

You can buy Visual Navigation Charts from Airways,

For licensed electronic suppliers of Visual Navigation Charts, see AIP on our Links page.

You can see information about aerodromes on the AIP web site,

The CAA produces a free booklet and poster about airspace, just email for copies, or you can view them on the CAA web site, under Publications.

Back to Top

Can I fly my RPA out of my line of sight?

Beyond visual line of sight operations are not permitted under Part 101. Operators wishing to fly an RPA beyond the line of sight need to be certificated under Part 102. For more information, see Advisory Circular   AC102-1 Do you want to operate beyond visual-line-of-sight? (PDF)

What do I need to do if I want to film a large group of people at a public event with my RPA?

If you want to fly your RPA over people or property, you will need consent from them to do so under Part 101. However, flying over a large group of people at a public event is likely to be regarded as a hazardous operation, which is outside the bounds of Part 101.

This means certification is required under Part 102. The CAA would assess the need to get consent based on the operation, airworthiness of your aircraft, and the experience of the person behind the controls. The CAA may satisfy the requirement for consent by requiring you to erect signs at the entrance to the event. In some cases, the CAA may waive the requirement to gain consent if it determines you are capable of managing the risks effectively.

For more information, see AC102-1 Do you want to operate over crowds or in congested areas? (PDF)

Will these rules address the privacy risks associated with RPAs?

The rules require RPA operators to obtain consent before flying over people or property. Operators are also required to comply with their obligations under the Privacy Act (and other relevant laws).

If you are concerned a drone may be operating in breach of the Privacy Act, contact the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

Back to Top