Unmanned aircraft, such as drones are very popular for recreational and business use.

But it’s an aircraft so can be a hazard to people, property and other aircraft. So it’s important to know the rules before you fly.

Rules and regulations

Part 101 rules when flying your unmanned aircraft

You might consider your drone to be a fun toy, but did you know it's an aircraft? There are rules you need to follow while flying to keep yourself, others, and your aircraft safe.

They are part of the New Zealand Civil Aviation Rules. Complying with them can also help you avoid fines or prosecution.

We've created a simple to follow checklist. Watch the video or download the pdf below.

Drone rules – Share the Skies

Consider others, be responsible:

  • Fly no higher than 120m (400ft) above the ground
  • Stay a safe and considerate distance away from people and buildings
  • Don't fly over private land, such as farms or houses, unless the owner says it's OK
  • Keep your drone in sight at all times
  • Stay 4 km away from anywhere aircraft are landing or taking off
  • It's dangerous to fly drones anywhere other aircraft are operating

 Download Key Rules and Checklist  [PDF 565 KB]


Part 102 Unmanned Aircraft Operator Certification

The objective of Part 102 is to lay out the requirements for the certification and operation of unmanned aircraft, outside of Part 101.

Learn more about Part 102 certification or read the Part 102 rules.

Your drone questions answered

We've gathered together some of the most frequently asked questions about flying unmanned aircraft in New Zealand.

 Read all FAQs 

The permissions you need to fly your drone in New Zealand depend on how and where you want to fly. 

Airspace

  • Stay 4kms away from all airports and helipads – unless you have clearance from the aerodrome operator.
  • Check for any airspace restrictions before you fly.
  • You may be able to fly in controlled airspace by obtaining air traffic control clearance from Airways.
  • Do not fly in special use airspace without the permission of the administering authority of the area (eg, military operating areas or restricted areas).

    Check airspace - AirShare website(external link)

People and property

  • It's safer not to fly over people. If you need to, only fly above people if you have asked for their consent
  • Get consent of the property owner or person in charge of the land you want to fly over.
  • Check with your local council before flying in public places like parks and reserves. Your regional council’s website will have information about drone use in your area.
  • You must apply for a permit from the Department of Conservation to fly over conservation land.

    Drone use on conservation land(external link)

Learn more about the rules - Intro to Part 101 rules for unmanned aircraft

However, there are three key things you need to actively check before you fly at these locations:

  1. Consent: Beaches and lakes can be privately owned, whereas parks are generally owned/administered by a local authority. Additionally, any of these places may be designated a Protected Area under the administration of DoC or a local authority. It is vital that you gain consent from the property owner or administering authority before flight. Some local authorities may have policies where blanket permission is given in some parks – check their websites for details. Beaches and lakes may have unoccupied water vessels – if you want to fly over these you will also need permission from the owner.
  2. Airspace: Any of these places may be in controlled airspace, within 4km of an aerodrome, or even in a no-fly zone. If this is the case, you will need to adhere to the restrictions of that airspace. Check the AirShare map(external link)(external link) to find the airspace, and see Intro to 101 Rules for flight near aerodromes, Controlled Airspace and No-Fly Zones sections of the CAA website to find out more.
  3. People: Beaches, parks and lakes draw lots and lots of people. Before you fly over anyone, including people in a water vessel, you will need their consent. At crowded locations this is almost certainly impractical, so just avoid flying over anyone.

You don’t need a license to fly a drone in New Zealand.

But you do need to follow the Part 101 drone rules, which are New Zealand Civil Aviation Rules.

If you need to fly outside the Part 101 unmanned aircraft rules, you will need to hold a Part 102 unmanned aircraft operator certificate. 

Intro to Part 101 rules for unmanned aircraft

Intro to Part 102 certification for unmanned aircraft

Training organisations

We recommend getting some training so you understand your responsibilities when flying your drone. A number of organisations provide drone training in New Zealand.

Model Flying New Zealand(external link) (Part 101)
RPA Skills, Ryan Groves(external link) (Part 101)
Aviation Safety Management Systems Ltd (ASMS)(external link) (Parts 101 and 102, UAV Agricultural Pilot Training)
Flight Test New Zealand (external link)(Parts 101 and 102)
FlyUAV(external link) (Parts 101 and 102)
Massey University(external link) (Parts 101 and 102)
Drone Training New Zealand(external link) (Parts 101 and 102)
DroneZup(external link) (Parts 101 and 102, UAV Agricultural Pilot Training)

Airspace can be designated as controlled or special use airspace. Controlled airspace is where there is a need for an air traffic control service to be provided for the safety and efficiency of aircraft operations. Special use airspace includes restricted areas, military operating areas, danger areas, and low flying zones.

Airspace can be temporarily designated “Special Use” to help a police, military, or search and rescue operation. On the other hand, some areas are designated specifically for model aircraft flying.

To fly a drone in controlled airspace, you must have prior authorisation from air traffic control. You can request this authorisation through AirShare.

You don’t need authorisation from air traffic control if you can fly your drone using a shielded operation.

AirShare – my flights(external link)

AirShare – airspace map for drone pilots(external link)

What is a shielded operation?

Learn more about the rules - Intro to Part 101 rules for unmanned aircraft

Drones can’t be flown outdoors at night, unless you are doing a shielded operation.

What is a shielded operation?

Learn about all the rules:

 Ask us about drones

If you have any questions about this topic, use our contact form, or email drones@caa.govt.nz

Report a drone safety concern

We encourage anyone who has a concern about drone safety to make a report.

 Report a drone safety concern