Considering the hype around unmanned aircraft - or drones - Herald readers may not have been surprised to read about a courier company delivering car parts across the skies of Auckland in this way.

The story about Fastway Couriers created quite a stir in the aviation community, and prompted a number of inquiries to the Civil Aviation Authority from those concerned about rule breaches.

Online readers were particularly concerned after viewing the YouTube video that accompanied the story showing what could be interpreted as several rule breaches.

What many of those who contacted us didn't know was that the company involved planned the delivery trial with the help of a professional unmanned aircraft operator who met with the CAA before the flight to ensure that it complied with CAA rules.


Although this story meant a busy day for some at the CAA, it was good to see that many in the aviation community are aware of the rules that apply to these aircraft.

The biggest challenge for aviation regulators around the world is to educate unmanned aircraft operators about the relevant civil aviation rules and safety risks.

New Zealand is no exception. The advanced performance characteristics of unmanned aircraft, which can fly further, faster and higher than traditional model aircraft, brings new risks to people, property and other airspace users.

On August 1, the Government will bring into force new rules for unmanned aircraft operations to help manage these risks. Businesses should take heart from this.

The most significant change is the introduction of Civil Aviation Rule Part 102 - Unmanned Aircraft Operator Certification.

It provides added flexibility for those who want to operate outside the current unmanned aircraft rules encapsulated in Rule Part 101, which includes limits such as only flying in daylight and below 400 feet (122m).

Under a Rule Part 102 certificate, businesses wanting to offer innovative new services or improve productivity by using these unconventional aircraft will be able to operate outside the Rule Part 101 restrictions as long as they can demonstrate that they are aware of and have a plan to manage the safety risks of their operation.

This is an example of what is known in the world of regulation as a flexible, risk-based approach. It involves focusing on the risks of each operation, rather than considering the purpose of operation, which is common in other parts of the world.


For example, in the United States commercial operations are not allowed unless an exemption has been issued by the regulator - the Federal Aviation Administration.

In South Africa, unmanned aircraft operations are not allowed within 50 lateral metres of people. Such an arbitrary restriction doesn't take into account individual situations.

Another aspect of the changes is the requirement for operators to get consent from property owners, or those they want to operate above, if they wish to operate under Part 101.

It is also worth noting that the new rules are just the beginning of the process to integrate these unconventional aircraft into our aviation system.

Steve Moore is the general manager, general aviation of the CAA.