Half of recreational drone users ignore rules: report

Safety concerns over drone use in New Zealand have been raised after a new report showed only about half of recreational users always comply with the operating rules.

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Airways New Zealand, the body which provides New Zealand‘s air traffic control, surveyed 1460 drone pilots, including 500 drone service providers.

Commercial operators reported being more stringent about following the rules, with 72 percent saying they always fully comply, compared with just 51 percent of recreational users.

However, survey respondents appeared to be less concerned about abiding by privacy regulations, with less than half saying they always ensured they had all necessary landowner approvals for a flight.

Airways‘ head of strategy Trent Fulcher said the survey results showed there was a clear gap in understanding and attitudes towards compliance between commercial and recreational operators.

He said commercial operators were expecting a significant increase in demand for their services and felt the current regulatory system supported their activities, but some improvements were needed.

“Drone operators are telling us that there should be stricter enforcement of rules and harsher penalties for those who don‘t comply, freer access to airspace and simpler process for gaining landowner approval,” he said.

“They are also becoming impatient with restrictions on beyond visual line of sight operations. BVLOS [Beyond Visual Line of Sight] would be a game changer for the industry, enabling activities like package deliveries and autonomous flying vehicles.”

Mr Fulcher said his organisation was now working towards developing a nationwide drone traffic management system.

“A trial of the AirMap drone traffic management platform earlier this year was the first step in this development.

“Airways is [also] looking to pilot technologies to allow drones to be accurately tracked once they are beyond the pilot‘s line of site and detect and avoidance capability to keep them safely separated from other aircraft.”

He said Airways would continue surveying drone users to gather information on key issues.

Mr Fulcher said the insights obtained would help to shape Airways‘ future support for the industry and direct the development of systems and tools used to safely integrate drones into New Zealand airspace.

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