Flying drones

You can fly drones in some Council-managed parks and reserves, subject to compliance with Civil Aviation Rule Part 101.

The New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) introduced new rules on 1 August 2015 for operators of drones, also known as UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), RPASs (remotely piloted aircraft systems) and unmanned aircraft.

All UAV operators need to be aware of and follow these rules.

Where can I fly my drone?

To fly in any park and reserve in Wellington City, you will need authorisation from Airways Corporation New Zealand, which is the Wellington Control Tower, unless you are carrying out a shielded operation.

The use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) is permitted in Council parks and reserves, provided they do not interfere or restrict other users or cause health and safety issues and comply with Civil Aviation Rule Part 101.

Unless you are a commercial operator, you must log all flights on the AirShare website.

You must follow the CAA rules. You also should avoid:

  • busy recreation trails
  • areas where organised events or gatherings are taking place, such as the Wellington Botanic Garden, Ōtari-Wilton's Bush, Bolton Street Cemetery and Truby King Park
  • sportsgrounds where organised games are taking place.

Most of the Wellington City urban area is within the controlled airspace of Wellington Airport or within 4km of an aerodrome. This includes 4km from the helicopter landing sites at Wellington Hospital and Queens Wharf. CAA rules state that you must obtain air traffic control clearance to fly in these areas. There are some exceptions for shielded operations.

The six key rules

While you must follow the all of the CAA rules while flying, these rules are the most important to keep in mind:

  • Always fly below 120 metres
  • Don’t fly over people without permission
  • Keep your drone in sight at all times
  • Stay 4 km away from aerodromes and helipads
  • Give way to all manned aircraft. Land immediately
  • Don’t fly over property without permission (you can email for permission to fly over WCC parks/reserves)

Requirements for commercial UAV operations

You will need a permit or licence from Council for commercial activities in parks. This includes filming, data gathering, surveying and scientific research.

CAA rules

In addition to the rules about controlled airspace, you must:

  • not operate an aircraft that is 25kg or larger and always ensure that it is safe to operate
  • at all times take all practicable steps to minimise hazards to people, property and other aircraft (ie, don’t do anything dangerous)
  • fly only in daylight
  • give way to all crewed aircraft
  • be able to see the aircraft with your own eyes (eg, not through binoculars, a monitor, or smartphone) to ensure separation from other aircraft (or use an observer to do this in certain cases)
  • not fly your aircraft higher than 120 metres (400 feet) above ground level (unless certain conditions are met)
  • have knowledge of airspace restrictions that apply in the area you want to operate
  • not fly closer than 4km from any aerodrome (unless certain conditions are met)
  • when flying in controlled airspace, get an air traffic control clearance from Airways
  • not fly in special-use airspace without the permission of the controlling authority of the area (eg, military operating areas, low flying zones or restricted areas)
  • have consent from anyone you want to fly above
  • have the consent of the property owner or person in charge of the area you are wanting to fly above.

These rules may change from time to time. For the latest updates: Civil Aviation Authority

Where else can I fly in the region?

There are many opportunities to fly in other parts of the region that are not affected by controlled airspace, including some of the Greater Wellington regional parks.

Flying drones (UAVs) in Greater Wellington Regional Council parks

Model aeroplanes in parks

The new CAA rules also apply to the following types of unmanned aircraft, which can only be flown on private property or at officially recognised sites under the control of approved operators, such as model aircraft clubs:

  • fixed-wing electric-powered model aircraft greater than 1m wingspan
  • gliders greater than 1.5m wingspan and bungee launched gliders
  • all internal combustion engine (petrol)-powered aircraft
  • all jet-powered models.

Model aeroplanes using a take-off and landing strip (including the types identified above) should only be flown in areas set aside for this purpose, for instance the Kapiti Aeromodellers Club at Queen Elizabeth Park in Paekakariki.