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Drone users warned: ‘The consequences can be quite significant’

People who were lucky enough to get a drone for Christmas are being urged to read up on the rules before using it, or face risking a disaster.

Drone operators must be aware of strict no-fly zones and of neighbours’ privacy, the CAA says.
Photo: 123RF

The Civil Aviation Authority said drone use has grown in popularity in New Zealand as the machines have become cheaper and more readily available.

Christmas is a timely reminder for people that drones are not toys, but aircraft that fall under regulation, its spokesperson Corey Price said.

“People get these things as gifts, but they make the mistake of thinking they are just a toy and they are definitely not.”

He said the authority is pro-drone use, as long as they are used safely.

People must particularly be aware of strict no-fly zones and of neighbours’ privacy, Price said.

The worst case scenario would be a drone colliding with a manned aircraft and causing a fatal crash.

“The consequences for other people can be quite significant, so it’s important people know how they are operating and where they are operating these aircraft.

“A lot of people forget about the proximity to aerodromes. We have a lot of aerodromes, airports and heliports, especially near hospitals.”

Some of the rules include:

  • Aircraft must not exceed 25kg and must always be safe to operate and well maintained
  • Operators 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 eg 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.

Drone users can use the Air Share app or visit the Authority’s website to learn more about what they can and cannot do.

If a member of the public is concerned about another person’s drone use, they can get in touch with the Civil Aviation Authority or the police if it is related to privacy.

Research undertaken by the CAA earlier this year found that a quarter of recreational drone users don’t know the rules around where or when they can fly their device.

It also showed that 10 percent of commercial drone flyers don’t understand the rules.

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