26 Nov 2014

CAA to tighten use of drones

7:17 am on 26 November 2014

The Civil Aviation Authority is tightening safety rules for the use of drones - but has no powers to protect people's privacy. International rules come into force in 2018, but the Government wants interim measures in place before then.

At present, drones come under the legislation for model planes. The main change is aimed at companies using drones, which can include anything from monitoring fire hot spots, real estate or environment mapping.

The general manager of general aviation at the Civil Aviation Authority, Steve Moore.

Steve Moore from the Civil Aviation Authority. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Complaints over the use of drones are rising; in 2010, just one was lodged, but so far this year there have been 15.

The Civil Aviation Authority hopes to get the new rules in place in 2015. General manager Steve Moore said under the new rules, an owner would need an operators' certificate if a drone could pose a risk to people or become a hazard.

That process might include pilot training, hazard identification or other safety matters and would be judged on a case-by-case basis.

Recreational users may not face any changes under the proposed laws unless they want to fly above high buildings, at night or close to airfields.

Police or other authorities would have to refer complaints to the CAA as the regulatory body.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards Photo: SUPPLIED

The CAA cannot protect a individual's privacy, however, as that responsibility falls under the Privacy Commissioner.

John Edwards said drones come under the same guidelines as CCTV footage, but breaching the Privacy Act would specifically require the individual to be identified.

The commissioner said police could consider a criminal charge of making an intimate visual recording.

Linda Bulk is the director of Aeronavics, which makes drones for commercial use and exports about 90 percent.

Ms Bulk said other countries have very strict regulations. In America, drones are allowed for hobbies but not commercial use, as there are concerns about the security of its airspace.

The proposed rule changes go out for consultation early next month until the end of January. The CAA hoped to have sign-off from the Government by June.

A small drone is controlled by remote.

A small drone is controlled by remote. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs