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CTC Aviation campaigns for safety around drones in New Zealand

CTC Aviation campaigns for safety around drones in New Zealand

A growing use of remotely piloted aircraft systems has prompted CTC Aviation to take action for the safety of its trainees and instructors in the Hamilton area.

Remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) (otherwise known as unmanned aerial systems or 'drones') are becoming more and more popular for both recreational and commercial use.

Readily available online or 'over-the-counter', RPAS can currently be purchased and operated without a licence or knowledge of the Civil Aviation Authority regulations, and this has caused concern for Hamilton-based airline pilot training company CTC Aviation.

Many RPAS operators have no aviation background and are not aware that compliance rules exist for the safety of those in the sky or on the ground. CTC Aviation Chief Operating Officer – Ab initio Training (NZ), Peter Stockwell, says this causes a real risk to aircraft operators like CTC Aviation who are sharing the airspace, and New Zealand needs a regulatory and licensing system in place to ensure RPAS users operate their devices safely and in accordance with accepted aviation rules and procedures.

Legally, an RPAS can be operated without air traffic control approval if it is within 400ft of ground level, in daylight, within visual line of sight, and outside 4km of an airfield.

The concern for CTC Aviation and other airspace users is that, while there are limitations on their use in terms of how high and how far RPAS will operate, they can still potentially cause a significant risk to manned aircraft.

"We continue to make our trainees and instructors aware of these sorts of new threats. Obviously safety is fundamental for us and is always top priority," said Mr Stockwell.

The safety debate between RPAS users, aircraft operators and aviation regulators at a national and international level is nothing new. But Mr Stockwell said the issue came a lot closer to home when CTC Aviation learned that a local manufacturer of RPAS was operating on its doorstep.

"We have been engaging with the company building and operating devices in the area we are operating in. The aim is to learn about each other's activities and put in place safety procedures to avoid any incidents at a local level." he said.

Wider industry discussion has become more urgent as there is a sense that it won't be too long before there is an accident between a RPAS and a manned aircraft.

Mr Stockwell says CTC Aviation aims to take part in the national discussion where it can around the rules for safely operating RPAS in New Zealand.

The New Zealand CAA currently has a project underway to review the current regulations and 'Rule 101', which will include some minor changes to accommodate the different types and uses of RPAS.

New Zealand CAA General Manager of General Aviation, Steve Moore, explained that a certification rule would be introduced which means if an RPAS user wants to operate their device outside Rule 101, they can obtain approval to do so through certification.

"This will not give them unrestricted approval to fly beyond the Part 101 rules, but only where it is necessary for their operation and only after they have satisfied the New Zealand CAA through their exposition, or operations manual, that they have identified the hazards and taken appropriate risk mitigation to ensure the safety of the public and other airspace users," Mr Moore said.

"The New Zealand CAA does not want to stifle innovation, but public safety is paramount."

In the future, the project will also look at integrating RPAS with other airspace users once new RPAS technology and international standards are better established.

The New Zealand CAA and Airways Corporation have also been running a programme to educate RPAS users.

An online resource can be found at www.airshare.co.nz and the New Zealand CAA has also produced a flyer that has been sent to manufacturers and distributers in New Zealand and overseas to include with each aircraft they import to New Zealand or sell.

ENDS