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In New Zealand, you’ll find some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world, making it a drone lover’s paradise. Just remember, the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in New Zealand, and each movie captures the stunning scenery of Middle Earth. 

Whether you’re a local or an international enthusiast, we encourage you to fly a drone in New Zealand. It’s an experience you won’t forget anytime soon. 

That said, there are some important things to keep in mind before you launch your drone in New Zealand. 

What follows is a complete pocket primer on New Zealand’s drone laws. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know to operate drones safely in this magnificent Pacific nation. 

First Things First: What Exactly Is a Drone?

If you’re new to drones, then you’re probably wondering what constitutes one. In layperson’s terms, a drone is an unmanned aircraft that consists of a ground-based controller and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). 

Drones can be very small or large depending on their use case and how long they need to be in the air. Most amateurs tend to use drones for photography and video. Others use them for the sheer love of flying. 

In more advanced use cases, drones support everything from commercial deliveries to emergency response and even military applications. 

Drone technology is continuously improving. As a result, new use cases are constantly coming to the surface. Truth be told, it’s incredible how far the technology has come in just a few short years. And the best part? In many ways, we’re just getting started. 

New Zealand Drone Rules: What You Need to Know

Before flying a drone in any country, you need to make sure to look into the laws and regulations, which tend to differ on a country-by-country basis. 

The good news is that drones are completely legal in New Zealand. The Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAANZ) regulates drone use in the country using the following criteria. 

Weight

Drones must weigh 55 pounds (~25kg) or less in New Zealand. If you want to fly a drone that’s more than 55 pounds (~25kg), you’ll need special permission to do so from CAANZ. This weight restriction keeps pace with similar regulations in places like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. 

Location

Always be aware of your surroundings when setting out with a drone in order to avoid running into trouble.

Just like with most countries, New Zealand has specific rules governing where you’re able to fly drones. For example, you cannot fly drones over critical infrastructure, near populated areas, or close to private property. In addition, drones cannot be flown over or around military bases, prisons, or stadiums. Doing so will result in stiff fines and penalties. As a rule of thumb, remember that  you can not operate drones higher than 400 feet (121.92 meters) or within 2.5 miles radius from the airport. 

In addition, New Zealand restricts flying drones over marine life. This falls under the Marine Mammals Protection Regulations of 1992, which states that—when flying at an altitude of less than 2,000 feet (609.6 meters)—an aircraft cannot be closer than 500 feet (152.4 meters) to a marine mammal. 

With all this in mind, always be aware of your surroundings when setting out with a drone in order to avoid running into trouble. The last thing you want is to have an expensive drone get confiscated by local authorities. Or, worse yet, do damage with your drone and incur penalties because of it. 

Hours of Use

The CAANZ strives to ensure the safety and protection of people and property. As such, flying at night is strictly prohibited in New Zealand—and rightfully so. 

Flying drones at night is very dangerous and difficult. If you want to fly a drone in New Zealand, do it before the sun goes down. 

Part 101 vs. Part 102 Rules

In New Zealand, drone usage is broken down into two classifications: Part 101 and Part 102. Each applies to both personal and commercial use. 

Whereas Part 101 lays out the basic rules for flying drones, Part 102 certification is required for advanced drone usage. For example, you’ll need Part 102 certification if you want to fly in controlled airspace or if you want to operate a heavier UAV. Night flying also falls under Part 102 regulation. 

In order to conduct advanced drone operations in New Zealand, you’ll need to obtain Part 102 Advanced Aircraft Operator certification. This involves indicating that you understand the risks relevant to your particular use case. In addition, you’ll also need to explain how you intend to mitigate risk. This will require providing a user manual. 

Find out more information about Part 102 certification

Drone Use in New Zealand: FAQ

Here are some questions that customers have been asking about flying drones in New Zealand. 

Are Drones Popular in New Zealand?

Drones are becoming increasingly popular in New Zealand with each passing year. The country offers relatively normal drone rules. As such, you won’t have to worry much about law enforcement as long as you know the laws and respect them. 

The most important thing is to be mindful of wildlife. This is even more critical when you’re flying near coastal areas. New Zealand goes to great lengths to protect their wildlife, and flying a drone too close to the local fauna could result in hefty penalties. If you’re flying a drone in New Zealand, please be mindful of these restrictions. We only have one planet to pass down to future generations, after all. 

Can You Fly Drones in New Zealand’s National Parks?

Most countries today will prevent you from flying drones over national parks, and New Zealand is no exception. This is to protect wildlife and natural scenery, as well as the people who frequent national parks. 

If you want to fly a drone in a national park, you’ll have to seek approval. Read more about how to fly drones legally in New Zealand’s national parks

Take our advice: Don’t ever attempt to fly a drone in a national park without first checking and obtaining clearance from local authorities. There have been horror stories over the years, from people who have had their drones taken away to those who have been slapped with massive fines and penalties. In some countries, flying a drone in a national park or conservation area could even land you in prison. It always pays to check first. 

Can You Fly a Drone in Auckland?

Auckland is the most densely populated metropolitan area in New Zealand and a popular tourist destination. So it comes as no surprise that drone enthusiasts often want to check out Auckland from the sky. 

Thought we were going to say it’s illegal to fly a drone in Auckland? Here’s some good news: It’s not! You’re able to fly a drone in most parks and public spaces around Auckland. And you don’t even need a permit, as long as you adhere to Part 101 rules. 

So go grab a plate of their famous fish and chips, pack your drone, and head out to a local park to take in the sights. Remember, safety first. Don’t eat your fish and chips and fly your drone at the same time.

You’re able to fly a drone in most parks and public spaces around Auckland.

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re a local citizen who loves drones or you just have some wanderlust, New Zealand is an excellent place to fly a drone. We encourage everyone to go check it out. Take in the sights and the culture, and fly a drone to get an even more spectacular perspective of the beautiful country. 

Follow these rules, and you’ll have no trouble flying a drone around New Zealand. It’ll be an unforgettable experience. 

To learn more about how Iris Automation is improving international drone usage, read this


This post was written by Justin Reynolds. Justin is a freelance writer who enjoys telling stories about how technology, science, and creativity can help workers be more productive. In his spare time, he likes seeing or playing live music, hiking, and traveling.