A visitor to New Zealand has been fined $500 after his drone landed on a lane of the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
The surprise and potentially dangerous incident on a critical and notoriously busy stretch of Auckland's motorway network has been uncovered through Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) documents.
Released under the Official Information Act, the paperwork reveals a drone landed on the Harbour Bridge on December 6. But despite tougher laws on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) coming in to force two years ago the operator managed to escape prosecution and was instead slapped with an infringement notice, involving a $500 fine.
When asked for details, the CAA said police alerted them to the incident which happened just at around 8:30pm on a Tuesday night.
The man had apparently been trying to film Auckland's harbour from the sky, but when his drone got too close to the bridge it triggered a high-tech, automatic security measure - which took control out of the owners' hands and immediately landed the UAV.
"The pilot flew over the harbour bridge to film when the GPS restricted area protection engaged and the RPA commenced auto-land," a CAA spokesman said by email. "This caused the aircraft to land on the side of one of the clip lanes on the edge of traffic.
"The pilot was controlling it from a grassed area on the city side of the harbour bridge. The CAA are uncertain of exact the amount of time he spent in the air but when interviewed he indicated he hadn't been flying for long.
"The initial complaint was received by CAA from NZ Police... it included the details surrounding the suspect such as his name, date of birth, address and occupation."
The CAA, which has the power to prosecute over breaches of airspace rules, said it chose to try and educate the operator - who was a visitor to New Zealand - rather than take him to court.
"The offender was cooperative throughout the investigation, he acknowledged that what he had done was wrong. He believed he was operating in the safest possible place and was not a NZ resident so wasn't aware of the CAA rules or his responsibilities as a drone operator. On this occasion an infringement was the most appropriate outcome," the spokesman said.
The incident is one of 10 investigations carried out by the CAA since new rules on the use of UAV's came into force on August 1, 2015.
The changes, which included requiring drone users to have consent of people and property owners before flying a drone over them and anyone wanting to operate a UAV at night to get certification from the CAA, came after a sharp rise in UAV incidents. Between 2007 and 2015, the number of incidents rose from 2 to 52.
So far there has only been one person prosecuted by the CAA over drone use. In July last year Simon Reeve was sentenced to make a $500 donation to charity and discharged without conviction on the charge of unnecessary endangerment.
The incident related to January 2015, when Reeve operated a drone in a controlled zone in close proximity to a helicopter which was conducting firefighting duties over the Pines Beach settlement, in North Canterbury.
The helicopter's pilot was not aware the drone was operating near him.
BASIC DRONE DO'S AND DRONE DONT'S
• Fly only in daylight
• Have consent from anyone you want to fly over - including their property
• Don't fly in special use airspace without the permission of the administering authority of the area (eg, military operating areas or restricted areas)
• Don't fly your aircraft higher than 120 metres (400 feet) above ground level
• Take all steps possible to minimise hazards to people, property and other aircraft
For a complete list of the rules, check Part 101 and 102 on the Civil Aviation Authority website.