Fly your drone safely this summer

Drones are making their way onto various ‘Christmas Gift Guide’ lists this year, so Rotorua Airport wants to remind operators of their responsibilities as a pilot.

New Civil Aviation Authority rules, which came into effect on 1 August 2015, outline regulations for unmanned aircrafts, such as drones, and have been developed to improve aviation safety for operators, air space users, people and property.

With the increasing popularity of drones, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) occurrences and complaints have increased from 11 in 2012 to over 172 so far this year. 63 per cent of these have been aviation-related concern, while others have included airspace incidents and accidents/crashes.

Rotorua Airport acting chief executive, John Harrison says operators need to be aware of where they can and cannot fly their remote controlled aircraft, regardless of how big or small, as they are considered air traffic users.

“There is more to flying a remotely controlled aircraft than people think and with the increasing popularity of drones in particular, people must understand the Civil Aviation rules, even if they are flying recreationally.

“Air traffic users have a responsibility to keep themselves, as well as others who use the airspace, safe,” says Mr Harrison.

Civil Aviation Rule Part 101 sets out where UAVs such as drones can fly. As a general rule, drones are unable to be flown within 4km of any aerodrome, or within 4km of any defined area of land or water used for the landing, departure, or surface movement of aircraft, for example airfields and heliports.

“Many people are not aware of relevant airspace restrictions and they don’t realise that they cannot fly in spaces such as around hospitals, where rescue helicopters operate, and the likes of the Rotorua lakefront, where different aviation tourism operators are located.

Mr Harrison says endangerment of an aircraft can carry a penalty of 12 months’ imprisonment, or a hefty fine.

“It comes down to the responsibility of each individual pilot to know the rules.

“We all want to enjoy our open spaces and the development of drones gives people a greater level of access to the air than ever before – but we have to ensure that everyone uses this space safely.”

Drone users can find out more about the rules at, as well view Rotorua Lakes Council’s guide for operating a drone in Rotorua.