Games of drones

They’re popular, affordable and fun to fly, but are you using them legally?

Most of the rules related to flying drones are based on common sense, with added measurements. In New Zealand, you are allowed to operate a drone professionally without a licence as long as it weighs less than 25kg; for heavier drones, you will need Part 102 certification.

Key points from the Part 101 rules for drone flight

Don't fly your drone higher than 120m above ground level
Land your drone immediately if any crewed aircraft approaches (including hang gliders and paragliders)
Keep your drone well maintained and install all relevant software updates
Obtain consent from the owner of any property you're flying over
Before flying in areas like public parks and reserves, check with your local council for any restrictions
Unless the aerodrome operator gives you clearance, stay 4km away from helipads and airports
Keep your drone within view using your own eyes at all times in other words, not through binoculars or FPV goggles
Never fly your drone in a way that can be hazardous to people or property
Don't fly over other people without their permission
Don't fly at night (except as a shielded activity, see below), or into cloud or fog

There's one exception to the night-flight rule: if your drone is flying no higher than nearby buildings, trees or other objects, the flight counts as a shielded activity. This means you are allowed to use it after dark as long as you don't cause a hazard to people or property – which can be a lot of fun if you have an LED-equipped drone!

Remember that you can only operate your drone in direct visual line-of-sight, which means there’s no problem with using a camera-equipped drone to film yourself or your friends having fun – assuming you have permission, of course! You just need to be able to see the drone itself at all times, and be aware of any potential risks (such as overhead powerlines) that the camera can’t show you.

Generally, regulations only apply to drones flown outside or in public spaces. This means you don't have to worry about staying away from airports if you're enjoying indoor aerial combat with a friend using a pair of battle drones.

If in doubt, visit the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) information page for all the details about drone operations.

Check out the full range of drones available from Jaycar.

- December 2019

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