Technicalities ground council's drone decision

Blanket approval on hold as council agrees staff need to investigate the complex issue further.

Blanket approval on hold as council agrees staff need to investigate the complex issue further.

A camera drone in operation. Picture by Andrew Bonallack

THE council has put a decision that would have allowed drones blanket approval to fly over District Council-owned land on hold temporarily because of a technical issue.

The environmental planning and regulations committee was prepared to adopt a staff recommendation that would have allowed drones — officially unmanned aircraft — to fly over council land.

That would include the approximately 950 hectares of reserves and 7.64ha of carparks and roads in reserves that the council owns, as well as 1890 kilometres of roads and 223km of footpaths.

But the committee decided to leave the matter for further investigation after Alan Davidson raised the issue of land that was leased from the council.

The committee was told that new rules from the Civil Aviation Authority that came into effect on August 1 imposed controls over the use of drones. Among other things, they required drone operators to obtain permission from the owner or occupier of the land to be flown over and that included council property.

Staff have assessed and considered negligible the effects of drones flying over council land, particularly when balanced against the cost to council of establishing and administering a drone consent system.

It was therefore recommended that the council adopt a blanket approval approach to the flying of drones over council-owned property.

Wording too narrow

Mr Davidson said he thought it was a great idea but the wording said reserves and roads owned by the GDC and did not include leased land, which made it a bit too narrow.

Civil Aviation had put a lot of restrictions around where drones could be flown, particularly in this town where they would probably have to go out to Wainui.

Committee chairwoman Pat Seymour said that meant a reserve leased from the council such as the proposed one at Waikirikiri Park could have a drone flying over it if the council leased it to Papawhariki.

If you went up the Coast, there would be lots of pieces of council-owned land on which other groups believed they had exclusive use.

Nine times out of 10 they might not mind when a drone flew over but there would be a day that somebody did something in the midst of a substantial sporting event.

Strategic planning manager David Wilson said they could, although they would be covered by the Civil Aviation regulations which covered an area with a 4 kilometre radius of the airport that would include places like the golf course.

Mr Wilson said he was has happy to have this lie on the table while staff checked. It was not a pressing issue. There were not a whole lot of drone owners creating problems as in other centres. The half-dozen local drone owners were responsible.

Craig Bauld said this was not an issue now but it would be eventually and people would say the council was not bothered. It was agreed the matter should wait while staff investigated.

THE council has put a decision that would have allowed drones blanket approval to fly over District Council-owned land on hold temporarily because of a technical issue.

The environmental planning and regulations committee was prepared to adopt a staff recommendation that would have allowed drones — officially unmanned aircraft — to fly over council land.

That would include the approximately 950 hectares of reserves and 7.64ha of carparks and roads in reserves that the council owns, as well as 1890 kilometres of roads and 223km of footpaths.

But the committee decided to leave the matter for further investigation after Alan Davidson raised the issue of land that was leased from the council.

The committee was told that new rules from the Civil Aviation Authority that came into effect on August 1 imposed controls over the use of drones. Among other things, they required drone operators to obtain permission from the owner or occupier of the land to be flown over and that included council property.

Staff have assessed and considered negligible the effects of drones flying over council land, particularly when balanced against the cost to council of establishing and administering a drone consent system.

It was therefore recommended that the council adopt a blanket approval approach to the flying of drones over council-owned property.

Wording too narrow

Mr Davidson said he thought it was a great idea but the wording said reserves and roads owned by the GDC and did not include leased land, which made it a bit too narrow.

Civil Aviation had put a lot of restrictions around where drones could be flown, particularly in this town where they would probably have to go out to Wainui.

Committee chairwoman Pat Seymour said that meant a reserve leased from the council such as the proposed one at Waikirikiri Park could have a drone flying over it if the council leased it to Papawhariki.

If you went up the Coast, there would be lots of pieces of council-owned land on which other groups believed they had exclusive use.

Nine times out of 10 they might not mind when a drone flew over but there would be a day that somebody did something in the midst of a substantial sporting event.

Strategic planning manager David Wilson said they could, although they would be covered by the Civil Aviation regulations which covered an area with a 4 kilometre radius of the airport that would include places like the golf course.

Mr Wilson said he was has happy to have this lie on the table while staff checked. It was not a pressing issue. There were not a whole lot of drone owners creating problems as in other centres. The half-dozen local drone owners were responsible.

Craig Bauld said this was not an issue now but it would be eventually and people would say the council was not bothered. It was agreed the matter should wait while staff investigated.

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Bruce Simpson - 3 years ago
The issue of the airport is easily dealt with by the provision in the new CAA regulations to allow what is called a "shielded operation" to take place. Under certain conditions, this means that drones and RC models can actually be legally flown right up to the boundary of an airport so the 4Km limitation need not apply.
It appears that CAA has done a very poor job of informing councils as to the effect of the regulation changes that took place back on August 1st and as a result, some councils (such as Rotorua District, Tauranga, Hamilton and others) have come up with some very simple and effective policies. Others however, such as our own South Waikato District Council here in Tokoroa, just don't have a clue and have opted instead to take the typical stance of a confused bureaucrat and ban everything.


Footnote from Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand general aviation manager Steve Moore:
Bruce Simpson is correct to say that unmanned aircraft (drones) can be flown right up to the boundary of an airport. A shielded operation involves an unmanned aircraft being flown under the highest point and within 100 metres of a man-made object (such as a building) or natural object (such as a stand of trees). It should be noted that the Gisborne control zone, which requires operators to get permission from Air Traffic Control before flight, extends beyond four kilometres from the airport. Operators can view a map of this airspace, apply for permission to fly in controlled airspace and find a list of council policies online at airshare.co.nz. The CAA encourages all unmanned aircraft operators to understand civil aviation rules before they fly. These can be found online at caa.govt.nz.


Aaron Callaghan - 3 years ago
The issue of children's safety in parks and open space areas also needs to be assessed when allowing the use of drones. There have been some serious (but isolated to date) instances of people being injured by drones which are not operated properly. There are a number of recent cases outside of New Zealand which attest to this - including injury to young children, and recently an elite sporting athlete was also injured when a drone malfunctioned. The issue of privacy also needs to be taken into account, as many drones have cameras.

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