CAA Rules For Drone and UAV Operators

Civil Aviation Rules (CARs) you need to know when flying UAVs.


Flying UAVs is extremely fun and safe when you stay within the rules.

New Zealand’s approach to UAV regulation

Why the concern? …

It is important to know that as a UAV pilot, you have the same responsibilities as the pilot of any aircraft

According to the Civil Aviation Act 1990, the pilot-in-command of an aircraft shall be responsible for the safe operation of the aircraft in flight.

The Regulator

The aeronautical authority in New Zealand is the CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY of NEW ZEALAND. Its principle publications for relevant legislation are:

  • The CIVIL AVIATION ACT 1990 including AMENDMENTS and

Aeronautical information services (AIS) within the New Zealand flight information region (FIR) are provided by the AIRWAYS CORPORATION of NEW ZEALAND.

International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)

New Zealand was among the 52 States that signed the Chicago Convention on 7 December 1944. With 26 more ratifications received, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) came into being 4 April 1947. The Civil Aviation Act 1948 ratified New Zealand acceptance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation.

ICAO is a specialised agency of the United Nations, formed to promote the safe and orderly development of international civil aviation throughout the world. It sets standards and regulations necessary for aviation safety, security, efficiency, and regularity, as well as for aviation environmental protection. The Organization serves as the forum for cooperation in all fields of civil aviation among its 190 Member States.

In New Zealand these standards are implemented into Legislation by our Ministry of Transport under the Civil Aviation Act (1990).

What is an Act?

The Purpose of an ACT is :

(a) to establish rules of operation and divisions of responsibility within the New Zealand civil aviation system in order to promote aviation safety; and

(b) to ensure that New Zealand’s obligations under international aviation agreements are implemented; and

  1. (c) to consolidate and amend the law relating to civil aviation in New Zealand


The Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand was established in 1992 as a crown entity under the Civil Aviation Act 1990.

The CAA is responsible to the Minister of Transport, and governed by the ‘Authority’, a five-member board appointed by the Minister to represent the public interest in civil aviation. The Authority is sometimes referred to as the Board.

There are two parts to the CAA:

  1. The agency that oversees aviation safety and the rules underpinning it, led by the Director of Civil Aviation.
    This agency is based in Wellington with small teams in Auckland and Christchurch, and Aviation Safety Advisers travelling the country. Most staff are technical specialists responsible for certificating and monitoring aviation ‘participants’ – that is, people and organisations holding an aviation document, for example, a licence to fly.
  2. The Aviation Security Service, known as Avsec, led by the General Manager of Aviation Security.
    Avsec is also based in Wellington but you will see most of its staff working in airports throughout New Zealand. They screen passengers and their carry-on baggage, screen checked baggage, and they control access to airports. Avsec also screens airport workers and manages the identity card scheme for people wanting access to restricted areas.

The relevant Rule Parts for UAV (RPAS) Pilots and where to find them

About the Civil Aviation Rules

The CARs mandate all sectors of Aviation. Of particular note to UAVs and the subject of most of this book is Rule Part 101.

Additional references to Rule Part 71 and Rule Part 102 are covered briefly where they are applicable to UAVs.

Tip- One of the best ways to learn these rules and then how to fly is by joining a club or connecting with other pilots. As you gain confidence in your flying ability, you may consider entering UAV competitions which will continue to test your skills while staying safe and legal.

The CAA uses different ways to manage risk in aviation, including education, guidance, and legislative tools like the rules. The approach used depends on the nature and degree of the risk posed to the aviation system.

Rules are generally made when setting a common or consistent standard is the best way to manage a safety risk or address an issue with the aviation system. They are made under the Civil Aviation Act 1990 by the Minister of Transport. While the Minister makes the rules, anyone can petition for a new rule or to update an existing rule, and there are several opportunities for aviation participants to get involved in the rule-making process.

These rules are legal documents and as such are written in a specific format. The first few pages describe the relevance of the rule and who it relates to. Following the description, is a list of amendments with an effective date and summary of amendments. It is vital that the version referred to is the current version.

The rules are designed to ensure safety and security for everyone. The rules are divided into groups of related rules called “Parts”.

Where will you find Civil Aviation Rules?

You can find all CARs on the CAA website:

Part Title Effective

Definitions and Interpretation

Part 1 Definitions and Abbreviations 10 Mar 2017


Part 11 Revoked 30 Aug 2007
Part 12 Accidents, Incidents and Statistics 24 Sep 2015


Part 19 Transition Rules 10 Mar 2017


Part 21 Certification of Products and Parts 10 Mar 2017
Part 26 Additional Airworthiness Requirements 25 Mar 2010
Part 39 Airworthiness Directives 01 Mar 2007
Part 43 General Maintenance Rules 10 Mar 2017
Part 47 Aircraft Registration and Marking 01 Aug 2015


Part 61 Pilot Licences and Ratings 10 Mar 2017
Part 63 Flight Engineer Licences and Ratings 22 Jun 2006
Part 65 Air Traffic Service Personnel Licences and Ratings 24 Sep 2015
Part 66 Aircraft Maintenance Personnel Licensing 01 Feb 2016
Part 67 Medical Standards and Certification 25 Oct 2007


Part 71 Designation and Classification of Airspace 23 Oct 2008
Part 77 Objects and Activities Affecting Navigable Airspace 01 Apr 2014

Rules of the Air and General Operating Rules

Part 91 General Operating and Flight Rules 10 Mar 2017
Part 92 Carriage of Dangerous Goods 22 Jun 2006
Part 93 Special Aerodrome Traffic Rules and Noise Abatement Procedures 24 Sep 2015
Part 95 Instrument Flight Procedures – Registration 25 Mar 2010
Part 101 Gyrogliders and Parasails, Unmanned Aircraft (including Balloons), Kites, and Rockets – Operating Rules
See CAA website RPAS, UAV, UAS, Drones and Model Aircraft
10 Mar 2017
Part 103 Microlight Aircraft – Operating Rules 10 Nov 2011
Part 104 Gliders – Operating Rules 01 Mar 2007
Part 105 Parachuting – Operating Rules 15 Dec 2012
Part 106 Hang Gliders – Operating Rules 01 Apr 2014
Part 108 Air Operator Security Programme 24 Sep 2015

Safety Management

Part 100 Safety Management
See also SMS
01 Feb 2016

Certificated Operators and Other Flight Operations

Part 102 Unmanned Aircraft Operator Certification
See RPAS, UAV, UAS, Drones and Model Aircraft
24 Sep 2015
Part 115 Adventure Aviation – Certification and Operations 10 Mar 2017
Part 119 Air Operator – Certification 10 Mar 2017
Part 121 Air Operations – Large Aeroplanes 10 Mar 2017
Part 125 Air Operations – Medium Aeroplanes 10 Mar 2017
Part 129 Foreign Air Transport Operator – Certification 25 Mar 2010
Part 133 Helicopter External Load Operations 25 Oct 2007
Part 135 Air Operations – Helicopters and Small Aeroplanes 01 Feb 2016
Part 137 Agricultural Aircraft Operations 10 Mar 2017

Certificated Organisations

Part 109 Regulated Air Cargo Agent – Certification 09 Oct 2008
Part 140 Aviation Security Service Organisations – Certification 16 Jan 2013
Part 141 Aviation Training Organisations – Certification 10 Mar 2017
Part 145 Aircraft Maintenance Organisations – Certification 10 Mar 2017
Part 146 Aircraft Design Organisations – Certification 10 Mar 2017
Part 147  Maintenance Training Organisations – Certification
See also Part 147 Forms and Part 147 Advisory Circulars
10 Mar 2017
Part 148 Aircraft Manufacturing Organisations – Certification 10 Mar 2017
Part 149 Aviation Recreation Organisations – Certification 01 Feb 2016


Part 139 Aerodromes – Certification, Operation and Use 10 Mar 2017
Part 157 Notice of Construction, Alteration, Activation, and Deactivation of Aerodromes 08 Feb 1996

Certificated Airways Services

Part 171 Aeronautical Telecommunication Services – Operation and Certification 10 Mar 2017
Part 172 Air Traffic Service Organisations – Certification 10 Mar 2017
Part 173 Instrument Flight Procedure Service Organisation – Certification and Operation 10 Mar 2017
Part 174 Aviation Meteorological Service Organisations – Certification 10 Mar 2017
Part 175 Aeronautical Information Services Organisations – Certification 10 Mar 2017

Which Civil Aviation Rules would Typically Apply to a Private Pilot?

  • Part 1 Definitions and Abbreviations
  • Part 12 Accidents, Incidents and Statistics
  • Part 61 Pilot Licenses And Ratings
  • Part 71 Designation and Classification of Airspace
  • Part 91 general operating & flight rules

The Civil Aviation Rules are divided into approximately 50 Parts covering specific subject areas. More than one Part may apply to you. For example, if you’re a private pilot, you need to know about gaining and maintaining your licence (Part 61), the flying and airspace rules (Part 91), and how to report incidents (Part 12). Part 1 – Definitions will also help you to understand what the terms mean.

Where do I stand in regards to these rules and regulations?

Regulations: Instructions in any documents must be obeyed they are legally binding. The following words are to be interpreted as:-

  • SHALL/MUST Means you must
  • SHOULD Means it is recommended
  • MAY Means you can if you want to

What services does the AIRWAYS CORPORATION of NEW ZEALAND provide to UAV and manned aircraft?

Aeronautical information services (AIS) within the New Zealand flight information region (FIR) are provided by the AIRWAYS CORPORATION of NEW ZEALAND.

Aeronautical Information Package

The AERONAUTICAL INFORMATION PACKAGE is published in the following documents.

New Zealand Aeronautical Information Publication (NZAIP). This document has been split up into four different volumes. Each volume is made up of the following three parts:

  • Part 1 – General (GEN), contains information of an administrative of explanatory nature;
  • Part 2 – En-Route (ENR), contains information concerning the airspace and its use;
  • Part 3 – Aerodrome (AD), contains information concerning aerodromes/heliports and their use.

The AIP is published on paper in four volumes as follows:

  • VOLUME 1– contains all of the GEN and ENR parts, as well as the content of the AD part relevant specifically to planning (i.e. AD1.0 and AD2.1 to AD2.24).
  • VOLUME 2 and 3 – which are issued as a set, for in-flight use, contains that information from the GEN and ENR parts relevant to IFR operations, and from the AD section, all aerodromes and heliports for which there are instrument procedures published, and those procedures.
  • VOLUME 4-for in-flight use, contains that information from the GEN and ENR parts relevant  to  VER  operations,  and  from  the  AD  section,  all  aerodrome  charts and associated VFR procedures

These volumes are accompanied by 18 Visual Navigation Charts issued on 9 different sheets. There is also a set of Planning Charts issued on 1 sheet.

Aeronautical Information Publication Supplements

AIP supplements are issued monthly and are mailed to every holder of an NZAIP document.  They contain information operational significance which is of a temporary nature and which is not urgent enough to warrant promulgation by NOTAM such information as hours of service for Air Traffic Control, revision of airspace and bird hazards are promulgated.

NOTAM (Notice to Airman)

Notams are promulgated by telecommunication whenever urgent operational information requires di ·semination. Notams are available to flight operations personnel and flight crews in the form of pre-flight briefings appropriate to the flight route.

Aeronautical Information Circulars

Aeronautical information circulars (AIC) give information relating to any matter concerning the flight safety, air navigation, technical, administrative or legislative matters and is not urgent enough to qualify for the origination of a NOTAM.

Aeronautical Charts

New Zealand aeronautical charts  include Aerodrome plates, Aerodrome ground movement charts, Visual Navigation Charts (scale 1:250 000 or 1:500 000) and Planning Charts (1:1 000 000) plus many more related to different types of operations.

What are the relevant Parts for an RPAS pilot to be aware of?

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulates civil aviation in New Zealand. The use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) is covered by Civil Aviation Rules and all operators are required by New Zealand Law to comply fully with these.

There are various naming conventions and acronyms used. The official International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) term is Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS). However, any item operating above the earth’s surface is required to be operated in accordance with the Rules and Regulations applicable.

The two Most relevant Parts are Rule Part 101 and Rule Part 102 which can be downloaded in full through the CAA NZ website in PDF form. Rule Part 101 relates to applicable rules and Rule Part 102 relates to operator certification.

  • Part 101 Gyrogliders and Parasails, Unmanned Aircraft (including Balloons), Kites, and Rockets Operating Rules
  • Part 102 Unmanned Aircraft Operator Certification

(See RPAS, UAV, UAS, Drones and Model Aircraft)

Civil Aviation Rules Cover All Aviation Activity

You will notice that in addition to Unmanned Aircraft, Gyro-gliders, Para-sails, Kites and Rockets are also covered by these Rules.

Civil aviation Rule Part 101

Rule Part 101 applies only to operations of UAVs of 25 kg and under, that fully comply with the rules in Rule Part 101. Any operations of aircraft over this weight or operations that cannot comply with Rule Part 101, requires certification under Rule Part 102.

This part is applicable to (in addition to other airborne items) all remotely piloted aircraft. The purpose of this part is to minimise any potential harm due to the operation of UAVs. It should be viewed in a similar fashion to road rules and requirements to wear seat belts or cycle helmets.

You can get a Rule Exemption from Rule Part 101 without needing a Part 102 certificate.

UAV operators are responsible for ensuring they or a person supervising their operation has awareness of the airspace designation of any intended operation.

Part 102…..

The purpose of Rule Part 102 is to give UAV operators more flexibility for operations outside the confines of Rule Part 101.

Rule Part 102 applies to UAV operations outside the rules specified in Rule Part 101, providing a certification process to an operator. There are a number of steps an applicant must fulfill and have approved prior to being certified under Rule Part 102.

Any UAV above 25 kg (including any payload) must be certified and operated by an individual or organisation licensed under Rule Part 102. The process involves preparing an ‘exposition’ that addresses issues of safety and compliance with the rules and regulations.

The exposition specifically involves assessing and managing hazards associated with the operation, licencing of pilots and observers, UAV operation and recording of operations and incidents.

There is a cost involved in the certification process that is dependent on the type of operation intended. Having your exposition reviewed by CAA can be expensive (at an hourly rate of $200 plus).

We can create an exposition for you which covers all you need, so you can present a fully compliant and thorough document to ensure zero to minimal tweaking required by CAA.

Contact us to ask about our 101 and 102 drone training and exposition services.