Events concerning drone use, including cases of near misses between drones and helicopters in heavily populated tourist areas, have led NZALPA to ramp up support for stronger regulation in New Zealand.
NZALPA Technical Director Hugh Faris has filed a remit to the 2017 NZALPA Annual Conference in order to formalise the union’s concerns about use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
The remit will be used to form NZALPA’s official policy on Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) development in New Zealand – a policy he assures will not inhibit the industry’s ability to develop new technologies and consistently innovate.
“The Government continues to promote New Zealand as a country in which RPAS devices, such as drones, are viewed as innovative and governed by a flexible regulatory framework,” Faris said.
“Development and experimentation are actively encouraged and this has already attracted global players, with the New Zealand CAA Director saying that he will allow RPAS operations to fly without the restrictions currently in place for conventional aircraft.”
But the associated rules or rule parts (CAR101/102) have been in place since 2015, a time when flexibility was said to suit the rapid development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).
“These were to be reviewed after 12 months, but we are only just seeing signs of this happening now,” Faris said.
“NZALPA is pressing for tighter regulation, which would include the registration of devices and the application of the rules currently being followed by conventional manned flights, or those providing equivalent levels of safety, to be applied to their operation.”
Last month, Fairfax media reported police saying there was illegal drone use near a West Coast heliport, creating “huge risk”.
Police also issued a warning to drone users after a man was seen flying a drone about 300 metres to 400m high in the airspace over Franz Josef's Glacier Country Heliport.
Franz Josef Police constable Brett Whittington, speaking to Fairfax, said the concerned heliport manager reported the drone operator to police as the drone was hovering directly over the landing pads.
Whittington said the man, believed to be a tourist, had no knowledge of the controlled airspace or rules regarding the operation of drones. He had also not sought permission from the property owner.
"Our whole community needs the heliport to operate safely and the unauthorised use of drones is potentially a huge risk to that," Whittington said.
"The heliport is also taking steps to prevent drone flight in the danger zones, including installing signs on the state highways and the heliport perimeter to help raise awareness."
Whittington urged drone users to familiarise themselves with parts 101 and 102 of the Civil Aviation Act NZ. Those breaking the rules could be fined up to $35,000.
Hugh Faris said that the industry and CAA needed to work quickly on updating the regulations and communicating these widely, particularly with the speed of development of drone-based consumer technology and the tourist numbers coming into New Zealand continuing to grow.
NZALPA remains willing and able to assist.
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