Safety first for all NZ airspace users

March 27, 2017 Harriet Jenkins

As you may have seen, the Dominion Post ran a story this week about the potential for a UAV to crash with a plane if a charging regime is implemented, the assumption being that fewer drone operators will log their flights on airshare.co.nz should there be a cost involved to log flights on the website.

The story stemmed from a request for information (RFI) that Airshare’s owner Airways New Zealand, posted on the GETS tender website for a new drone management system.

The safety of New Zealand’s airspace and how airspace should be shared between UAV operators, the industries that employ them, and other airborne vehicles is a topic we believe deserves a comprehensive discussion. And we want to include all our airshare users in this.

In our experience, commercial operators in particular are very aware of their responsibilities and want to ensure the continued success of the growing UAV industry by operating safely and within the civil aviation rules. Airshare.co.nz has recorded more than 30,000 flights from both commercial and recreational users in the past two years and this is increasing every month.

To help address this rapid growth in the sector, Airways on behalf of Airshare, is leading an important discussion about the future of New Zealand’s airspace, consulting with the industry and its many stakeholders to hear their views and gain an understanding of their needs.

In a series of workshops over the coming months Airways and Airshare will be speaking with UAV operators, airlines and lighter aircraft operators, regional councils and government agencies to gather a range of requirements for the future of UAV airspace management – this will inform any eventual solution we come to. 

In parallel with this consultation process, Airways has issued the RFI to gather information from software companies on UAV Traffic Management (UTM) systems.

The whole process is about finding out how mature the unmanned traffic management (UTM) industry is, what technologies are available, and what the costs might be to enhance the existing  airshare.co.nz website.

Advances in Unmanned Traffic Management technology are addressing the issues that need to be dealt with if we are to have an environment where UAVs can be safely used daily for deliveries, building maintenance, surveying, news gathering, search and rescue and many more applications.

The current environment is not built for this, and we are exploring the available technologies as part of our future planning process.

Currently it is the airline industry that largely funds airshare.co.nz through their ATC fees. As a responsible service provider, part of this industry consultation must include a discussion on how a potential new UAV management system could be funded. However it is important to note that right now all of this is very much at an exploratory phase. 

In the meantime the airshare.co.nz team will continue to champion and support the UAV industry, provide safety and educational information and facilitate UAV flights in controlled airspace. 

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