Queenstown Airport brings parties together to promote safe drone use around the region

Dan Kirkman QAC Bobby Lamont FENZ Bill Malone QAC Mike Wilkinson Jared Patterson South Roads Bruce Urquhart Corey Price CAA

In a first of its kind for the region, local drone operators and agencies have joined together to promote discussion and activities to better understand how drones (UAVs) are used within the local airspace and the challenges faced by the industry.

Led by a cross-departmental Queenstown Airport team, the group first met last month with local commercial drone operators including photographers and videographers, surveyors, roading contractors and pest management, alongside representatives from national organisations, including the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Fire Emergency New Zealand (FENZ).

The meeting, which will now be held quarterly, brings people together to collaborate on ideas and initiatives to reduce drone related issues in the area and to spread awareness of safe drone practice.

The platform also provides an opportunity to look at potential applications of drones and the new technology coming online in the aviation industry.

The initiative forms part of QAC’s wider drone education programme which is supported by Queenstown Airport Police and Customs to help educate visitors when they arrive to the destination on legal drone use around New Zealand.

Queenstown Airport Manager Airfield and Compliance Dan Kirkman said it was important to embrace technological advances in the UAV space, rather than fear what it may bring.

“There are many reasons why people fly drones in our region, both private and commercial, so it’s about safety but also about sharing ideas on how drones can be used for good,” says Dan.

Visitors bringing drones into the region were also a significant consideration.

“By educating people on correct drone use before and when they arrive into ZQN, we hope to help ensure visitors have a good experience with their drones and aren’t caught out by ignorance of the rules, as well as protecting the safety and privacy of those who live here.”

QAC has been monitoring drone use in the local airspace since last summer to provide a baseline understanding of illegal drone activity, with the aim to reduce illegal drone use within the airport zone and wider region through education and follow-up action.

The group will also consider how drones can be used to innovate in aviation such as using the technology for airfield assessment and aircraft maintenance. As part of this, BECA conducted a drone demonstration during Airport Safety Week, showing staff at Wanaka and Queenstown Airports how drones can be used to conduct maintenance checks on buildings and aircraft.

CAA Unmanned Aircraft team leader Corey Price said it was great to see drone operators working together with QAC to better understand how UAVs are used in the airspace around Queenstown.

“The use of unmanned aircraft, such as drones, is growing exponentially around New Zealand and Queenstown is no different,” Corey says. 

“It’s vitally important that drones are being operated safely, especially when they are flying in controlled airspace and near busy airports such as ZQN.

“Having a regular forum where drone users can work through some of the challenges of flying in Queenstown’s busy airspace will be really beneficial for all parties involved,” he adds.

There is an array of national online tools available for those flying drones and looking to employ best practice flying to ensure compliance, privacy and the community is protected. The local group aims to support these initiatives with locally driven ideas.

To find out more about using drones in New Zealand and around airports visit

https://www.flyyourdrone.nz/ or https://www.airshare.co.nz/ to register your drone flight.