New Zealand leaders in unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) technology will meet in Masterton in the lead-up to Wings over Wairarapa next week to discuss key issues facing the sector, including potential rule changes to improve regulation and increase safety.

The one-day symposium "Open Skies," on January 16 at Solway Park, will be discussing new technology as well as the proposed regulations.

Wairarapa drone operator Toby Mills supports the suggested changes.

Mr Mills owns Noise Productions, a Carterton based sound company which provides a drone photography and video service.


"The new rules strike a good balance between keeping things open and having regulation," Mr Mills said. "At the moment, there isn't a lot around the safety side of it."

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) documents explaining the proposals support Mr Mills' view, saying that increasing use of unmanned aircraft poses risks to safety.

Chris Thomson, aviation industry cluster manager at Callaghan Innovation, one of the conference's partner organisations, says use of drones is increasing, with the horticulture, oil and gas, forestry, TV and film industries finding roles for the gadgets.

Mr Thompson said the proposed risk-based rules were quite progressive compared to other countries and that the technology was becoming more widely used in New Zealand.

"There are many opportunities for unmanned aircraft technology to improve farm productivity, reduce operating costs and improve safety. Examples include remote stock monitoring, fence and equipment inspections, weed spraying and pasture management," he said.

Associate Minister of Transport Craig Foss will be a keynote speaker at the conference.

CAA director Graeme Harris will talk about the proposed rules, which include:

-The introduction of a certification scheme for some operators.


-Establishing a two-tier risk-based regulatory structure, low risk and higher or uncertain risk. Lower risk craft are unlikely to require operator certification.

The CAA issued a notice in December about the changes for the sector, also known as remotely piloted aircraft systems.

Feedback on the proposals is due by the end of this month.