18 Dec 2015
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Drone users reminded to keep off Santa's naughty list

By Shannon Williams

Drone users are being urged to ‘fly responsibility’ heading into the Christmas period, following a fourfold increase in drone-related incidents.

With UAVs ((unmanned aerial vehicles) growing in popularity, Airways New Zealand and the Civil Aviation Authority is reminding Kiwis to think safety-first if they happen to find one under their Christmas tree this year.

In order to educate users, airshare.co.nz, the go-to resource for all drone users, has launched an online interactive training course on how to fly drones under the new Civil Aviation rules Part 101 and 102.

Airways New Zealand chief operating officer Pauline Lamb says the course provides a good grounding on how to fly safely and responsibly and is must for all new drone users.

“Drone 101 Training can be accessed via a mobile device (IOS and Android) or desktop and covers helpful tips, Civil Aviation rules and six useful checklists to guide users through a drone flight from start to finish,” says Lamb.

The number of incidents reported to the CAA reflects the growing popularity of UAVs in New Zealand. CAA figures show 107 incidents to date in 2015, which is a fourfold increase compared to 2014, when there were 27 incidents. In 2013 nine incidents were reported with three in 2012 and one in 2011.

TradeMe reported recently that UAVs are moving up its most searched items list. The US-based Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has predicted there will be one million UAVs under U.S. Christmas trees this year.

Steve Moore, CAA general manager of General Aviation, says safety should be top of mind for all.

“These aircraft can be a lot of fun but they also have the potential to endanger people and property as well as other airspace users,” he says.

“If you’re operating one for the first time it's very important that you follow civil aviation rules to ensure they are flown safely. These can be found online at airshare.co.nz or at caa.govt.nz,” Moore adds.

Drone users warned about controlled airspace rules

Civil Aviation rules require operators to get permission from air traffic control to fly in controlled airspace, which includes the airspace above and close to all New Zealand cities, and many towns.

Lamb says the easiest way to do this is to log your flight on airshare.co.nz before you fly.

“Since December last year we have received 6,473 flight requests on airshare.co.nz. Some 3,772 requests were to fly in controlled airspace,” she says.

“We suspect there are many more who may unwittingly be putting others at risk. We need all the lucky recipients of UAVs this Christmas to fly safely,” Lamb adds.

CAA and Airways promote safe flight over Christmas

Both agencies are providing retailers and councils with printed flyers and online materials outlining how to fly UAVs safely and within Civil Aviation rules. UAV users will be encouraged to gain approval from airshare.co.nz where they can also find useful information and tips.

Social media promotion and an interactive online UAV training course will help educate users via airshare.co.nz.

“We want to share the airspace safely and efficiently, and we’re working with the industry and CAA to develop the safest possible environment for UAV users to operate in,” Lamb says.

“It’s important, at this time of year more than ever, that New Zealanders understand the rules around where they’re allowed to fly and how to fly their UAVs safely,” she explains.

“With more UAVs in the hands of children, parents need to take responsibility to ensure they are being operated safely at all times.”

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