8 Jan 2019

'No repercussions': Drone maker says no enforcement for flying rules

7:39 am on 8 January 2019

Pilots and lobbyists are calling for tighter rules around drone use - but drone fliers say it's the "total lack of rule enforcement" that needs to change.

flying drone with camera on the sky

Photo: 123RF

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is investigating two near-miss incidents, and has launched a website to spread awareness about the rules of drone flying, while Airways New Zealand is working with the government to develop stricter guidelines and rules.

But drone-maker Craig Patterson said the focus should be on better resourcing for the CAA, so they can penalise rule-breakers.

"The rules aren't the problem, it's the monitoring of the operations. Everyone knows that there's no repercussions to stuff they do," he said.

While the CAA estimates that there are more than 280,000 drone fliers in New Zealand, Mr Patterson says those drone fliers know there are only about a handful of people at CAA watching them.

"For them to have to develop cases and take them through the legal system to prosecute people - it's just inconceivable that they'd actually have time to do that," Mr Patterson said.

"So people who aren't taking notice of the rules now aren't going to take notice of new rules."

Also calling for more policing of drones is Aviation Safety Management Systems Chief Executive, Andrew Shelley, whose company works to train drone pilots.

A drone license system wouldn't work here because it isn't stopping drone incidents overseas, or even helping to catch those responsible, Mr Shelly said.

He said there is always going to be people breaking drone rules, as long as people know the rules aren't going to be enforced.

"It might be better just to put more resources into the Civil Aviation Authority so they can investigate these incidents and potentially have more people on the ground."

New Year's Eve in Auckland would have been a logical time to have an officer on the ground watching drone behaviour, he said.

That action could have stopped the near-miss with the Eagle Helicopter, and could help prevent incidents in the future.

RNZ has contacted the CAA for comment.

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