New Zealand Moves to Criminalize Hobbyist Drones

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New Zealand Moves to Criminalize Hobbyist Drones

CX-10 USB Charging, Andres Rueda March 5, 2015

Are micro drones as dangerous as full size drones?

In the US, drone pilots have to contend with the FAA, in New Zealand it’s the CAA or the Civil Aviation Authority. I’d like to share the following story because it shows what can happen when the government decides to crack down too aggressively. Bruce Simpson writes about his personal drone experience and perspective on the recent CAA regulations.

In my entire 55 years of flying model aircraft, I have never once injured anyone nor damaged anyone else’s property – and that’s despite being a very active participant of the hobby. Most of the time I was flying the only rule was ‘use common sense’ – and obviously this has worked pretty well for me and the thousands of other Kiwis that have enjoyed this innocent pastime. I have searched high and low but can not find any records of anyone dying or harming another in New Zealand as a result of this hobby and it seems that the only injuries sustained seem to be related to the operator’s own body and small propellers – sometimes painful but not fatal.

So it was with great sadness, that I read through the CAA’s new regulations for the operation of radio controlled flying models and drones – now collectively called “remotely-piloted aircraft”. How tragic it is that in one fell swoop of the regulator’s pen, those who fly these craft for pleasure and relaxation are now treated like criminals and have effectively been stripped of the rights they’ve enjoyed for so long – despite the fact that this hobby has an outstanding safety record?

No longer can a father and his young boy just walk down to the local schoolyard or park to fly the cheap toy model purchased online from China or carefully hand-crafted over a long series of winter evenings. Although these craft may weigh just a few tens of grams, the new regulations consider them to be every bit as menacing, risky and dangerous as the much larger professional drones used by commercial operators.

If you or your children fly their tiny toys anywhere, without first obtaining the permission of the property owner over which they will briefly soar, then a $5000 fine is in the offing.

New drone rules ‘criminalise a hobby’

In California, we are seeing too many stories where drones are portrayed in a negative light after hampering firefighting efforts (this even happened when my favorite sandwich shop recently burned down). If the public opinion becomes polarized against drones, then we may be forced to contend with similar regulations. I’d prefer we educate instead of regulate. Bruce should at least be pleased that the maximum fine that can be levied is just $5,000. If you fly your drone commercially in the US, the FAA can fine you (and your customer) up to $10,000. At least in the US, we can get Section 333 Exemptions.

By |2017-08-31T15:24:34-08:00August 7th, 2015|Drone Law, Drones, International|1 Comment

About the Author:

Sam Estrin
I'm an avid drone enthusiast and part-time drone blogger living outside of the DC area. I track drone news and write editorials and timely drone news stories that I find interesting. If you like my stories, you can follow me on Twitter or visit me at LinkedIn. If you'd like me to write for your drone oriented publication or blog, you can contact me at

One Comment

  1. Barry Johnstone August 16, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    Yet MORE legislation (NZ’s great love – that and forming committees!) that tells us what we CAN’T do, never legislation that tells us what we CAN do! One would think that flying a model ‘plane wouldn’t cause it to rain blood, but apparently so – according to the CAA. Common sense is always required, not a plethora of OTT legislation! For instance, don’t fly your model above say 100 meters, ‘cos if an aircraft is flying below that………………………………………box on burocrats, ‘cos your work is NEVER-ENDING!

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