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Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are gaining in popularity, particularly for businesses. You can use drone operations in a variety of ways for your business, including:

As drone technology is new and experimental, New Zealand law in the area is still developing. However, there are various regulations you need to ensure your business follows if you use drones for commercial purposes. Unlike other countries, New Zealand regulations do not have different rules for recreational or commercial drone usage. Your business may face fines or legal penalties if you do not comply with the law. For some help, this article will provide five legal tips for using drones for commercial purposes.

1. Prepare Accordingly

The New Zealand Civil Aviation Rules set out regulations for drone usage, and you need to ensure everyone at your business that uses a drone knows these. The rules that apply to drones have two sections:

  • Part 101, which applies to normal drone usage; and
  • Part 102, which applies to drone usage that does not meet Part 101’s requirements.

According to Part 101, before flying a drone, you need to ensure:

  • it weighs less than 25kg;
  • it is always safe to operate and well maintained;
  • you take steps to minimise hazards to people, property, and other aircraft;
  • you only fly during daylight hours unless you are running a shielded operation;
  • you give way to any crewed aircraft, such as planes and paragliders, and land if one approaches;
  • it stays within your line of sight at all times; and
  • you do not go higher than 120m above ground level.

Ensure that you have planned for these requirements before you fly. It is a good idea for you and your staff to go through drone training to ensure everybody uses the drone according to the law. 

2. Check for No-Fly Zones

No-fly zones are restricted air spaces where you cannot fly your drones. Before you conduct a flight, check for any such spaces, including:

  • anywhere that needs air traffic control, such as airports and hospital helipads; 
  • restricted areas;
  • military operating areas;
  • mandatory broadcast zones;
  • volcanic hazard zones;
  • danger areas; and
  • low flying zones.

You must stay four kilometres away from all airports and airfields unless you have permission from the aerodrome operator to fly nearby. You or one of your staff also needs an appropriate pilot qualification to do so.

If you are running a shielded operation, you can fly at night and near airports. This means you stay below 100m and fly within 100m of a natural or human-built object, such as a building or trees. There also needs to be a physical barrier between your drone and the airport/airfield.

3. Get Consent When You Need It

There are also various situations where you need to get consent to fly your drone. If you do not, you open yourself up to legal consequences. These situations include when you fly over:

  • people;
  • private property;
  • public places, like a park; and
  • conservation land.

If you fly over people or a person’s private property, you need to get the consent of those individuals. If you are flying in a public place or over conservation land, you need to get the permission of your local council or the Department of Conservation. 

For example, say that you use a drone to get film for advertising purposes that flies over a person’s farm. You need to get either the written or verbal consent of that landowner to fly your drone legally.

4. Comply With Privacy Law

Privacy law in New Zealand is technology-neutral, which means it applies no matter what kind of technology you use. You can collect personal information with a drone, so you need to ensure you handle that information according to the Privacy Act. When you get people’s consent to fly a drone above them, you need to tell them that it is recording them, along with other important information. Privacy laws apply to drones in the same way they apply to CCTV.

5. Apply for Part 102 Certification if You Need It

New Zealand law allows for experimental drones and drone usage that may not comply with Part 101. However, you need to get certification to operate under Part 102 to do so. This applies to drones over the 25kg weight limit and other situations where you cannot meet Part 101’s requirements. Whether you gain certification depends on the dangers your drone may pose and the safety of your operation.

Key Takeaways

Drones are a developing technology, which means that the law that regulates them is constantly growing. Therefore, you need to ensure you actively keep up to date with civil aviation regulation and how it applies to your business’ drone usage. If you would like more information or help with legally using drones for commercial purposes, contact LegalVision’s regulatory and compliance lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a shielded operation?

A shielded operation refers to a specific way that you fly your drone or unmanned aircraft. For a shielded operation, you cannot go above 100m, and you must stay within 100m of a natural or human-built structure. If you fly near an airport/airfield, there needs to be a physical barrier between it and your drone.

Can I fly my drone over people?

To legally fly your drone or other unmanned aircraft over people, you need to have the consent of those people. You generally should only fly your drone in areas where you have control over who is nearby. If an unexpected person enters the field, you need to get their permission as well.

What is personal information?

Personal information is any data about an identifiable individual. When you use this information either by itself or with other information, you can identify the person it is about. For drones, video footage of a person qualifies as personal information.

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