Drones – can they fly above you or your property? - Henderson Reeves Connell Rishworth Lawyers

Drones – can they fly above you or your property?

Thanks to recent advances in drone technology, you can now purchase a drone for your own personal use at your local electronics store from as little as $69.99.

The increased use and popularity of drones has brought up new issues around the safety and privacy of people and property affected by flying drones, and in August 2015, New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) introduced rules to control the use of drones.

The CAA drone rules require that that any operator of a drone must:

  • Obtain the consent from anyone the operator will fly above;
  • Obtain the consent of the property owner or person in charge of the area the operator wishes to fly above (this includes private landowners, district and regional councils, and government departments such as the Department of Conservation and Maritime New Zealand)

The CAA drone rules also stipulate drones must not be operated at night, must not be flown above 120m and must not fly within 4km of an airport or aerodrome without permission.

More information about the CAA drone rules can be found here:

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) drone rules: https://www.caa.govt.nz/rpas/

Airshare – UAV and Drone hub for New Zealand (rules, online permission forms, maps and guidance):  https://www.airshare.co.nz/

Flying a drone in Northland – local drone laws

If you intend to fly a drone in Northland, you must comply with both the CAA drone rules, and also any local drone laws set out by the local authority in that area. In Northland, there are four applicable local authorities:

Northland Regional Council (NRC) drone regulations

Information on Northland Regional Council drone regulations can be found here: https://www.nrc.govt.nz/Transport/drones

Kaipara District Council (KDC) drone regulations

Information on Kaipara District drone regulations can be found here: https://www.kaipara.govt.nz/OurServices/Airfields.html

Whangarei District Council (WDC) drone regulations

Information on Whangarei District drone regulations can be found here: http://www.wdc.govt.nz/FacilitiesandRecreation/Drones/Pages/Drones.aspx

Far North District Council (FNDC) drone regulations

The Far North District Council does not have a web page about local drone regulations, but you can call FNDC on 0800 920 029.

Where you can and cannot fly your drone in NZ

The Airshare website also has a helpful Maps page covering where you can and cannot fly your drone in New Zealand: https://www.airshare.co.nz/maps

What can you do if there’s a drone flying over your house without permission?

First things first – no, you cannot shoot down a drone over your property. This would open you up to prosecution under several laws.

The best thing to do if a drone flies above your property without permission, or you feel your privacy has been breached, is to make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner or the Civil Aviation Authority.

If there is an urgent risk to public safety, you should contact the police.

What happens to drone operators who break the rules?

The CAA rules also introduce penalties for flying drones without permission and in an unsafe manner. In August 2016 Simon Reeves was convicted in the District Court in Christchurch and fined $1000 for flying a drone in the path of a helicopter conducting fire-fighting duties at Pine Beach settlement near Kaiapoi.

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