Seven flights had their landings delayed after a drone was sighted in the Auckland Airport airspace this afternoon.

The Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAA) says a drone was spotted by two pilots on approach to Auckland airport at 2.46pm and was flying at an altitude of approximately 1200 feet.

It was three nautical miles from runway 05 in the direction of Manukau.

CAA Deputy Director of general aviation Steve Moore said he was "hopping mad" over the latest incident.

Advertisement

"Pilots and their passengers should be able to take off and land at our airports without the added risk of a drone coming into contact with their aircraft," he said.

"The idiots who are doing this are putting people's lives at risk and need to be identified before something catastrophic happens.

"The safety of the travelling public cannot be compromised by thoughtless fools flying drones illegally in the airport zones."

Newstalk ZB's Kerre McIvor was one of many travellers holed up on a delayed flight and called the radio station after her flight landed to update listeners.

"Some idiot with a drone was holding up traffic over Auckland Airport", she told Newstalk ZB.

Seated next to former National Party MP Steven Joyce, McIvor said they spent the delay discussing the best way to get the drone out of the sky.

"I was sitting next to Steven Joyce and he was like you know 'why don't they shoot it out of the sky?'"

"And I said, 'well they shot the dog'."

McIvor added she thought the suggestion to shoot the drone out of the sky was a "jolly good one".

The pilot, whilst polite, did sound brassed off by the ordeal, she said.

Police confirmed they were notified at 2.50pm of the incident and were making inquiries to find any drone operators.

Senior Sergeant Rachel Dolheguy, response manager Auckland Airport police station, said they immediately dispatched police to search for the drone operators.

During that time flights were delayed from landing at the airport, she said.

"This lasted for approximately 30 minutes," she said.

"No outgoing flights were affected."

Police could not locate the drone operators but inquiries were ongoing, she said.

"We would once again remind drone operators that they must ensure that they are complying with the Civil Aviation Act, failure to do so, particularly in an airspace could have disastrous consequences.

"You can also be prosecuted for this."

An Airways spokesperson confirmed that seven flights had been delayed over the course of 30 minutes.

"In the event of a drone incursion in controlled airspace, the air traffic controller's first priority is to safely manage all air traffic in the vicinity," she said.

"Airways is concerned about the increasing of drone sightings in controlled airspace.

"At least one report of drones operating illegally in controlled airspace is received each week."

Last month Air New Zealand called for tighter regulations regarding drone use after two near misses with drones.

On one occasion a drone came within metres of a flight descending into Auckland Airport from Tokyo, putting the safety of 278 passengers and crew at risk.

The airline said the drone passed so close that the crew worried it had been sucked into an engine, although a later inspection showed that had not happened.

Under current regulations, drone operators who breach aviation rules can be fined up to $5000.