Globally, drones (also referred to as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs)) are becoming increasingly popular and more affordable.  In New Zealand this is resulting in larger numbers of drones being flown for recreational and commercial purposes.

Queenstown Airport supports and encourages operators to familiarise themselves with the Civil Aviation Rules governing drone use, including new rules which were introduced on 1 August 2015.  Their primary purpose is to ensure that aviation safety is maintained and drone operators are taking responsibility for ensuring the safety of their operations and of the surrounding airspace. 

Airshare – your online information hub

Drone operators are responsible for ensuring that their flights comply with Civil Aviation Rules.  Penalties can be tough for flying drones outside of aviation rules or without the correct permissions so an online hub called Airshare has been created to help operators find all the information they need to fly their drone safely.  Airshare has been developed by Airways New Zealand in collaboration with Callaghan Innovation, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the industry body UAVNZ, and is widely supported by the commercial UAV community and recreational flyers.

Airshare is quick and easy to use and provides:

  • Maps: to know where to fly
  • Traveller FAQs: for visitors bringing drones to New Zealand
  • My Flights: to log your flights and request access to controlled airspace
  • Top Tips: to understand Civil Aviation Rules
  • Council Policies: on consent for flying over parks and Council land
  • Quiz: to test your knowledge
  • Directory: NZ’s largest directory to find drone operators or service providers

Flying rules around Queenstown Airport

Civil Aviation Rules include restrictions to flying drones within a 4km radius of an airport and any drone flight within controlled airspace must be authorised by Airways Air Traffic Control (ATC).

For Queenstown Airport, this exclusion zone bisects 77 Dominion Road to the North, Hope Ave/ Rere Rd to the East, 35 metres North of Woolshed Road/SH6 intersection to the South and 523/527 Frankton Road and shared Road boundary to the West as marked on the aerial plan (PDF 6.2MB).

Under CAA rules, you can use your drone within 4km of an aerodrome only if it is a ‘shielded operation’.  A shielded operation is defined by CAA as flying within 100m of, and below the top of, a natural or man-made object.  An example is a flight that takes place near a stand of trees.

Because this area is within the Air Traffic Control zone, an operator must apply for approval from ATC via the Airshare website at least 24 hours in advance.  Air Traffic Control checks the website twice a day to ensure a smooth and fast turnaround of requests.

Any approvals would be subject to the drone operator meeting certain necessary prerequisites, including a demonstrated understanding of the Civil Aviation rules.

Operators need to be aware of other relevant airspace restrictions as well.  Drones need to be flown below 400 feet (120m) above ground level, during daylight hours only, within visual line of site, and in a manner that does not create a risk or hazard to aircraft, or to persons or property.

Operators who intend to fly over public spaces also need to get permission from the land owner.  For example, if an operator wants to fly over a park or beach, they will need to get permission from the local council.

If a drone is under 25kg, the operation of it is governed by Civil Aviation Rule Part 101 unless the operator holds a Civil Aviation Rule Part 102 Unmanned Aircraft Operator Certificate.

If a drone is over a maximum weight of 25kg, the operator will need to hold a Civil Aviation Rule Part 102 Unmanned Aircraft Operator Certificate.

How to report unsafe flying

If a drone presents an immediate danger, please call 111 and ask for police.

To report a rule breach, contact Civil Aviation Authority by emailing or freephone 0508 4 SAFETY (0508 472 338).

You will need to provide the time and location of the incident, and any other details about the person flying the drone.

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More resources

New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority rules for drone flying are available both on the Airshare website and CAA’s own website