Airways produces New Zealand’s first report on drones


New Zealand’s major air traffic controller, Airways, has delivered its first report on the state of the drone industry in New Zealand. The results are based on information obtained from 1460 drone pilots, which included 500 drone service providers.

Based on the whole of the country, the report has provided an in-depth view of drone use for both recreational as well as commercial purposes, while also reporting on the state of drone safety and the value of the growing commercial drone market.

According to Trent Fulcher, Airways’ Head of Strategy, “Businesses in the drone industry are telling us they are very optimistic about the future, with many expecting an increase or significant increase in demand for services, growing revenue and to hire more staff,” adding that: “It’s great to see most users are aware of safety rules and regulations and are trying to abide by them. But there is a clear gap in understanding and attitudes towards compliance and a divide between commercial and recreational operators.”

The report makes it clear that safety is still a major challenge, and that there is a divide between the attitude of commercial drone pilots and recreational ones. Roughly 60 percent of respondents reported their strict compliance with civil aviation rules and regulations when they fly. However, commercial operators reported being more stringent about following rules, with 72percent confirming that they always complied with safety regulations, while only 51 percent of recreational users complied.

While the majority of commercial operators generally felt that the current regulatory environment supported their activities and industry growth, they felt that a number of improvements are needed, their biggest bugbear being the ‘beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS)’ regulation.

According to Fulcher, commercial drone operators are “becoming impatient with restrictions on beyond visual line of sight operations. BVLOS would be a game changer for the industry, enabling activities like package deliveries and autonomous flying vehicles.”

Airways aims to develop a nationwide drone traffic management system. A trial of the AirMap drone traffic management platform earlier this year was the first step in this development and Airways is now looking to pilot technologies to allow drones to be accurately tracked once they are beyond the pilot’s line of site.

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