New Rules for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems. Do you know the risks? Have you got permission to fly?
The number of incidents involving drones is rising quickly as their use increases, giving rise to growing safety concerns. With this in mind, on 1 August 2015 new Civil Aviation Rules governing the operation of unmanned aircraft systems in New Zealand come into force. Rule Part 101 Gyrogliders and Parasails, Unmanned Aircraft (including Balloons), Kites, and Rockets – Operating Rules, which regulates traditional model aircraft operations and extends to remotely piloted aircraft with a gross mass of up to 25 kg, is amended in a number of respects. In particular:
- A new Subpart E is added. This includes obligations on the operators of remotely piloted aircraft to avoid operations:
- above persons who have not given consent; and
- above property unless the prior consent of the occupier or owner has been obtained.
- A specific obligation to take all practicable steps to minimise hazards to persons, property and other aircraft is incorporated. Hazardous operations could include:
- Over flight of people, for example at large public gatherings and sports events, where the risks must be eliminated or mitigated.
- Overflight of buildings or other structures or vehicles which could be damaged in the case of loss of control or propulsion failure of the UAV.
- Flight outside direct unaided visual line of sight.
- Flights which may potentially distract operators of vehicles resulting in crashes.
- Flights undertaken without any required air traffic clearance or the permission of airfield operators which disrupt other aerial operations, or in restricted areas such as low flying areas or mandatory broadcast zones.
- Risk of damage due to un-airworthy aircraft including failure to verify range prior to commencement.
- Flights in poor weather or visibility which could leading to loss of control.
A new Rule Part 102, Unmanned Aircraft Operator - Certification, is also added. It requires that persons wanting to operate unmanned aircraft beyond the limits of Part 101 (in particular unmanned aircraft with a gross mass of 25 kg or more) must hold an unmanned aircraft operator certificate from the Director of Civil Aviation. Adequate risk management assessments must be undertaken and procedures developed to manage risk. As part of the application process applicants for unmanned aircraft operator certificates must submit an “Exposition” to the Director. This needs to include details of the operator and nature of proposed operations, a hazards register, mechanism for compliance with CAA reporting obligations, operating requirements for personnel licensing, qualifications and training, aircraft types and means of identification, details of control systems, inflight procedures, maintenance of aircraft and airworthiness standards, cargo handling procedures, document control procedures.
Clearly UAV operators face a number of potential risks and exposures. It is important they know the rules and have robust risk management systems are in place. Operators should also think about appropriate insurance cover, particularly in respect of third party and statutory liabilities.