Types Of CAA New Zealand Airspace Guide For Drone Pilots

Airspace Knowledge


For a number of safety reasons, the CAA designates our airspace. These include requirements to protect traffic in the vicinity of an aerodrome; protecting international or instrument routes; and avoiding dangerous areas.

Airspace designations can also be helpful for other reasons such as major public events,  police operations, search and rescue operations, military requirements, environmental and conservation purposes.

Rule Part 71

Part 71 Designation And Classification Of Airspace

Part 71 is the Rule that prescribes the general rules for the designation and classification of airspace for aviation purposes and in the public interest.

All designated airspace has a unique alphanumeric designator as well as a name.

All airspace is designated by the CAA in the “NZ Air Navigation Register”, you can find this on the CAA’s


This section details the different types of airspace in New Zealand along with theauthority and justification. It also provides a background for the rules applicable to UAV operators and reasons that they apply.

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

Controlled Airspace Vs Uncontrolled 

Airspace can be designated as either controlled airspace or special use airspace. Controlled airspace is designated where there is a need for an air traffic control service to be provided for the safety and efficiency of aircraft operations. Such designations include control areas and control zones.

Special use airspace is designated where there is a need to impose limitations on the operation of aircraft for aviation safety and security, or national security, or for any other reason in the public interest. Special use airspace includes restricted areas, military operating areas, mandatory broadcast zones, volcanic hazard zones, danger areas, and low flying zones.

Airspace Classification

Airspace is either classified as controlled or uncontrolled airspace.

Controlled airspace, as the name suggests is controlled by Air Traffic Control (ATC) to maintain safe and efficient air operations. Airspace that is used for regular operations is generally classified as controlled airspace. Of particular importance to UAV operators is controlled airspace in the first 1000 feet above the ground. This is found in the vicinity of a controlled aerodrome with aircraft operating close to the ground when taking off or landing.

Airspace classification is the term used to specify various levels of air traffic services that are required to ensure the safety and efficiency of aircraft operations. Airspace classifications are made in accordance with the ICAO airspace classification system.

Remember that airspace is divided into controlled or uncontrolled. The level of service and separation required by flights depends on the class of airspace. 

More information about the classes of airspace available in New Zealand is summarised in the table below.

In New Zealand, airspace is classified under the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) airspace classification system. This system determines the level of Air Traffic Service (ATS) that will be provided, and whether entry to that airspace requires an ATC clearance.

Controlled Airspace

Authorisation to operate a UAV in controlled airspace is required prior to any flight in controlled airspace. This authorisation may only be obtained by Airways New Zealand through contact with the unit responsible for the airspace to be operated in. Airshare My Flights is the place to request authorisation to operate a UAV in controlled airspace.

Log your planned flight in airshare. If your flight falls within a Control Zone the request will automatically be sent to the relevant control tower for processing.

Have more questions? Talk to Will on 027 315 2265 (who’s also a helicopter pilot like all of us at dronetraining.co.nz)

Uncontrolled Airspace

UAV flights in uncontrolled airspace do not require Air Traffic Control approval. However, permission may still be required by the property owner and/or airfield operator if within 4 kilometres of an airfield.

Air Traffic Services Within Controlled And Uncontrolled Airspace

Air traffic control operates at all controlled aerodromes during hours of scheduled commercial operations. These hours can be found on the AIP website (aip.net.nz) by selecting the latest supplement in the AIP Amendments box.

Contact information for each airfield is located on airshare, using the map page and clicking on the appropriate blue circle.

Uncontrolled Airspace Exists Outside Areas Of Controlled Airspace

Airshare provides excellent maps illustrating lower level controlled airspace (from ground level) and all places used for landing or take off of aircraft (controlled or uncontrolled) with their associated 4 kilometre protected areas. It is important to note that this is not limited to aerodromes, but includes heliports often associated with hospitals and agricultural operations.

Be aware that some private operators have take-off and landing areas not specified on airshare, and at all times UAV must give way to manned aircraft

Safety Tip

Knowing the hazards in the area – always prepare for any flight by observing the surrounding airspace for hazards; these could be trees, power lines, people, buildings.

Have more questions? Talk to Will on 027 315 2265 (who’s also a helicopter pilot like all of us at dronetraining.co.nz)

Control Zone (CTR)

Controlled airspace around a controlled aerodrome is designated as a Control Zone and is designed to protect aircraft operating within this zone. This may include Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flights arriving at and departing from an aerodrome.

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A control zone extends from the surface of the earth to a specified upwards limit, with lateral limits designed to encompass the IFR flight paths into and out of an aerodrome.

What happens to control zones when ATC at aerodromes are not on watch?

Control Zones becomes class G (uncontrolled) airspace. To operate a UAV at night or when the Tower is off-watch, the same rules still apply if you wish to operate within 4 kilometres of an aerodrome.

There are a variety of airspace classes in New Zealand. UAV operations more than 4 kilometre from an aerodrome boundary and above 400 feet AGL must remain in Class G Airspace.

Special Use Airspace – Restricted, Military Operating, And Danger Areas 

Types Of Special Use Airspace

  • MOA
  • VHZ
  • MBZ
  • CFZ
  • LFZ
  • PLA


UAVs must not be flown within a 4 kilometre radius of an aerodrome boundary (even if that radius includes uncontrolled airspace). The obvious reason for this restriction is that manned aircraft are frequently operating close to the ground, in the airspace usually occupied by UAVs. Airshare provides comprehensive maps detailing lower level controlled airspace and aerodromes.

There are some exceptions to the above rule. In the case of an uncontrolled aerodrome (or outside the hours of operation of a controlled aerodrome), a UAV may be permitted to operate subject to terms agreed with the aerodrome operator.

Each UAV pilot must have an observer in attendance while the UAV is in flight and the UAV is not operated at a height of more than 400 feet above the ground, unless approved by the Director.

Additionally the UAV pilot must hold, (or be supervised by someone who holds) an approved pilot qualification, an approved UAV instructor, or a pilot licence/certificate.

A further overriding exception, is the case of shielded operations conducted outside the aerodrome boundary and in airspace physically separated from the aerodrome by a barrier capable of arresting the flight of the UAV.

Any UAV operation within 4 kilometre of a controlled aerodrome must be operated in accordance with an authorisation from the relevant Air Traffic Control unit.

In addition the same rules apply regarding holding (or being supervised by someone who holds) an approved pilot qualification, an approved UAV instructor, or a pilot licence/certificate. As with uncontrolled aerodromes, shielded operations are permitted within the 4 km radius of a controlled aerodrome.

Have more questions? Talk to Will on 027 315 2265 (who’s also a helicopter pilot like all of us at dronetraining.co.nz)

Airport Boundary Fence

As a rule of thumb, aircraft will land and take-off into wind, so the runway closest to being directly facing into the wind will be the active runway.

Remember it is mandatory for drone UAV pilots when flying in controlled airspace to log your flight via airshare.

Aerodrome Traffic Circuit

An aerodrome traffic circuit is a standard path to be flown by aircraft operating in the vicinity of an aerodrome. This often resembles the shape of a racecourse and consists of five main segments which are described below.

By using a consistent flight pattern pilots are able to know where to expect other air traffic and are able to position themselves accordingly. Drones in the path of climbing or descending aircraft approaching, departing or in a circuit can be a hazard.

Further Classifications Of Airspace

VFR Transit Lane

VFR transit lanes are portions of a control zone (CTR) that are designated uncontrolled airspace during daylight hours to allow VFR operations without the requirement to obtain an Air Traffic Control (ATC) clearance.

Information on the location of VFR transit lanes can be found on Visual Navigation Charts (VNC).

Note: ATC authorisation is not required by day.

Airspace Resources

Charts and other airspace chart info http://aip.net.nz

METARS, TAF’s, NOTAMS etc http://ifis.airways.co.nz

CAA Website https://www.aviation.govt.nz

To contact us about your drone training…students below after an airspace tour in our 427.

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Hangar 1, 240 Aerodrome Road, Mount Maunganui
Telephone Will on: 027 315 2265
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