26 Jan 2014

Law on drones 'needs updating'

5:04 pm on 26 January 2014

Aviation New Zealand says the laws regulating the use of drones are outdated, and need modernising.

The small, remote-controlled aircraft can fly several kilometres high and could pose a threat to commercial planes.

Under current aviation law, any unmanned aircraft which weighs less than 25 kilograms is treated the same as a model plane, but drones can fly higher and further than model planes.

As there are no licencing requirements for their use, anyone can go into an electrical store and buy one.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is concerned about users lacking relevant aviation knowledge and training.

Aviation New Zealand chief executive Irene King says their use in this country is low but growing and it's something regulators need to address.

"You've got to have a very different regulatory framework; one that on the one hand encourages innovation and growth but on the other addresses safety issues."

Small cameras can be attached to drones to capture footage from their flight. The Privacy Commission says it is keeping an eye on the issue, and is applying its code for the use of CCTV footage to drones.

Drone advocate says CAA too tough

Drone enthusiast Bruce Simpson says the rules are tougher for commercial users, such as farmers.

He says until recently the Civil Aviation Authority said it was not possible to use drones for commercial purposes without what they called a 'commercial operating authority'.

Mr Simpson says the process of obtaining that has been very difficult and variable depending on who you are and what you are trying to do.

He says the authority is not doing enough to educate the public about its drone policies.