The Civil Aviation Authority admits the safety message about risks from drones is not getting through.

Pilots say they are alarmed at recent near-misses between drones and helicopters in popular tourist destinations and have called for stronger rules covering drones or remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS).

The authority says it is looking a more ''effective and innovative'' ways of communicating with drone operators.

"Our current methods — the CAA and Airshare websites and brochures which come with RPAS bought at New Zealand retail outlets - are not reaching enough RPAS users," said a spokeswoman.


"We're about to carry out some research to find out how the current rules are working and how we can most effectively educate increasing numbers of RPAS users about the importance of flying their aircraft safely."

The New Zealand Air Line Pilot's Association says urgent action is needed.

"A review of New Zealand rules are much overdue," said association president Tim Robinson.

The organisation had pushed for a revamp of CAA's rules which came into force back in 2015.

"Currently they offer little or no protection to either other RPAS users or the public. As in Australia - they are woefully inadequate. They neither accurately identify current or emerging risks, nor offer a sound framework for the safe operation of these devices."

The authority spokeswoman said there was more policy work going on.

"In the longer term, the CAA, in co-ordination with other government departments and agencies, is working to develop policies around the full integration of RPAS into New Zealand airspace."

In the US alone some 29,000 RPAS "pilots" have been certified since August 2016. Their size can vary from below 250g to the size of a large plane. Figures on the number of drones in New Zealand are difficult to establish because many are bought online from overseas.


New Zealand pilots will in next month discuss the issue at their annual conference and a remit will be used to form the association's official policy on drone development in this country.

Robinson said the association did not want to inhibit the industry's ability to develop new technologies and innovate.

"The Government continues to promote New Zealand as a country in which RPAS devices are viewed as innovative and governed by a flexible regulatory framework," Robinson said.

"Development and experimentation are actively encouraged and this has already attracted global players, with the New Zealand CAA director saying that he will allow RPAS operations to fly without the restrictions currently in place for conventional aircraft."

But the associated rules have now been in place since 2015, a time when flexibility was said to suit the rapid development of RPAS.

"These were to be reviewed after 12 months, but we are only just seeing signs of this happening now," said Robinson.

The association wanted regulations, which would include the registration of devices and the application of the rules currently being followed by conventional manned flights, or those providing equivalent levels of safety.

Last month, police warned a tourist for flying an illegal drone near a heliport at Franz Josef heliport, creating what police described as "huge risk".

A tourist has been fined $500 for landing a drone on a lane of the Auckland Harbour bridge and earlier this year West Auckland residents saw a drone illegally flying over the West Harbour and Westgate areas, despite the airspace being controlled by the Air Force.

Following the Franz Josef incident police warned anyone using a drone to ensure they were familiar with law and failure to do so could result in fines of up to $35,000.