NZALPA took part in a recent Ministry of Transport drone forum and workshop on consent provisions for drones operating under Civil Aviation Part 101 rules.
Until now consultation has mostly focussed on drone safety, as policy makers worked on how best to integrate drones into New Zealand airspace. Consent and privacy have now joined safety as growing concerns in New Zealand and across the world.
NZALPA, Aviation New Zealand and other industry leaders met in Wellington with government and legal academic representatives, including specialists from the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Corrections, the Transport Accident Investigation Commission and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) also took part to better understand the views of industry experts and the sector, in parallel with consultation also underway for the new Civil Aviation Bill.
Officials summarised drone policy areas the government is concentrating on, including strategy and innovation; integrated connections; resilience and security. NZALPA Senior Technical Officer Dave Reynolds was pleased that this summary “seemed to be singing from the (NZALPA) hymn sheet on a number of issues.” This included government agencies looking seriously at NZALPA recommendations on drone registration, identification and competency testing, Reynolds said.
Aviation New Zealand’s John Nicholson has noted that regulation must be clear to impact on irresponsible, as well as responsible operators, as another purpose of the forum was for officials to validate their drone policy work so far with industry, to ensure they were on the right, and most effective, legislative track.
A major challenge for the wider development and use of drones in New Zealand is the issue of obtaining consent of property owners and private persons for overflights, and this was reflected in the wide representation of organisations attending the forum. Unmanned traffic management will continue to be vexed until these consent issues can be resolved. Reynolds maintains that it is unlikely there will be any “silver bullet” immediately apparent and more collaborative work with industry is required.
Guidance from the Privacy Commissioner, as an independent Crown entity, will be critical but, demonstrating its industry leadership, Reynolds said that there is now an opportunity for NZALPA, with its mix of technical, practical and legal expertise to work even closer with officials to influence practical and workable policy.
Engagement with officials will resume shortly and there is much hope that this collaboration could help New Zealand to become a leader in safe and appropriate integration of this exciting technology into our skies.
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