New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has permitted a new restricted airspace to trial drones flying beyond line of sight. Globally, New Zealand’s regulatory environment for drones is considered progressive compared with those in the Northern Hemisphere facing greater security considerations. Drone flights in New Zealand have been growing exponentially. Over the past three years, weekly recorded drone flights in the country’s controlled airspace have increased 20-fold.
The establishment of a new regulatory framework enables unmanned air vehicles to operate remotely, the test range, dubbed “ Incredible Skies” extends the opportunity for drone technology research in New Zealand and internationally.
“The CAA is keen to ensure the right balance of safety regulation whilst providing support and a focus on the future of this emerging sector. We believe that with appropriate levels of collaboration between industry and the regulator, drone technology has the potential to contribute substantially to a thriving aviation sector, and both regional and national economies” says Mark Houston, CAA Senior technical Specialist Unmanned Aircraft and Recreational. The CAA allows operators from anywhere in the world to apply to operate in New Zealand airspace.
Technology company, Paua Interface (Paua), has been delegated the authority to manage the space, and has secured permissions from landowners underneath the projected flight paths. There are around 90 New Zealand operators with the credentials to apply to fly beyond line of sight. The first Incredible Skies trials will test technologies that enable drone medical delivery and crisis support. The trials aim to explore the safe delivery of medicines, beyond visual line of sight flight, autonomous flight, and integration with other airspace users such as planes and recreational users. Paua is calling for drone companies and technologists to apply to take part in upcoming trials or schedule their own by visiting the Incredible Skies website.
‘AirMap’ has also joined Airways New Zealand to deploy an unmanned traffic management (UTM) system that enables safe and compliant drone flights for a three-month trial in the Canterbury and Queenstown regions of New Zealand. The UTM technology allows drones to integrate safely with New Zealand’s national airspace system.
Using AirMap’s free iOS and Android apps, drone operators can request digital airspace and public land owner approvals required by CAA. Digital authorization is available from the Christchurch, Queenstown, and Wanaka airports and on public lands in the Christchurch City, Selwyn, and Queenstown Lakes District Councils. Commercial and recreational drone operators are invited to participate in the trials and will significantly simplify and streamline the authorization process.
Airspace managers participating in the trial will provide digital flight authorizations and share real-time updates about the location of events, community gatherings, emergencies, and other areas to avoid. This information will be delivered immediately to the AirMap app to enable safer flights and more comprehensive situational awareness.
Airways New Zealand is the key enabler of the region’s aviation system and a leading provider of air traffic management services worldwide, serving more than 65 countries and managing more than 1 million air traffic movements each year.