A drone being flown within the restricted airspace around Whakatāne Airport yesterday has prompted authorities to remind people of the strict rules around this activity. Airport Operations Manager Mark Cleghorn said airport staff noticed the drone being flown in the area and immediately alerted police, given the imminent safety risk. 

“Police intervened which was great work by the them and our team, but unfortunately this is not the only time this type of incident has occurred recently, which is very concerning. The potential consequences of this type of activity are really worrying,” he says.  

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulates airspace in New Zealand and defines the rules that drone pilots must comply with. Airspace around Whakatane Hospital (helipad) and the Whakatāne and Galatea airports is restricted because of aircraft safety issues. There are also restrictions when flying in Whakatāne township, given the number of people and activity in this area.  

But Mr Cleghorn says there are plenty of non-restricted areas to fly drones and people just need to be aware of what is and isn’t permitted. Information is available on Council’s website, including maps of restricted areas, along with the Civil Aviation Authority’s website.

“Drone pilots need to be fully aware of the rules or they’ll potentially get themselves in a lot of trouble and put lives at risk. If you see someone operating outside of the rules, please contact CAA on 05 084 SAFETY or isi@caa.govt.nz. If a drone is posing imminent threat to people or property, then the police should be involved.”