UAV Near Misses

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (equivalent to New Zealand’s Transport Accident Investigation Commission) has recently reported on two near misses between UAVs and manned aircraft (in one case a DHC- 8 and in the other a Bell 412 rescue helicopter). In both cases it appears that the UAVs were being flown by unidentified operators in airspace which was not available to such aircraft without prior approval / notification. Fortunately no collisions occurred.

As in Australia the operation of UAVs in New Zealand is restricted by civil aviation laws aimed at ensuring that these situations do not occur.

In New Zealand a pilotless aircraft (being an aircraft, other than a balloon or kite, designed to fly unmanned with a gross mass greater than 25kg) may only be operated with authorisation from the Director of Civil Aviation and in accordance with conditions approved by him.

Operations of smaller unmanned aircraft, 25kg gross mass or less (classed as model aircraft), are also restricted. In broad terms these restrictions affect operations:

  • within 4 km of uncontrolled aerodromes;
  • at controlled aerodromes;
  • above 400 feet AGL;
  • at any aerodrome, except under the supervision of the holder of an approved qualification;
  • over any active aerodrome movement areas or runway strips;
  • where ground visibility is less than 3 km;
  • where the aircraft can’t be operated at all times within line of sight and below the prevailing cloud base;
  • outdoors at night,
and operators must ensure that such aircraft give way to and remain clear of all manned aircraft on the ground and in flight at all times.

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