Drone Privacy Laws NZ – What Are The Rules For Flying Around People And Property?

Drone privacy rules, laws and regulations applicable to drone operations:

The relevant rules of flying drones are under CAA Part 101 and 102.

All drone pilots/operators must follow the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules for drones.

Rules that apply to privacy are listed below.

5 of the 12 general drone laws, apply to privacy as well as safety.

  1. at all times take all practicable steps to minimize hazards to persons, property and other aircraft (ie, don’t do anything hazardous)
  2. fly only in daylight (unless certified to fly at night.)
  3. be able to see the aircraft with your own eyes (eg, not through binoculars, or monitor, or smartphone) to ensure separation from other aircraft (or use an observer to do this in certain cases)
  4. have consent from anyone you want to fly above.
  5. have the consent of the property owner or person in charge of the area you are wanting to fly above.

If a drone is flying over a property, and the operator has the owner or tenants’ approval, they are not required to ask neighbours permission.

We teach our 101/102 course participants that they should do their utmost to inform neighbours as a courtesy.

It can be difficult to see a drone’s actual position. It may appear to be flying directly over a building but may be further away than it appears.

A trained operator will usually have GPS as well as an aerial view of the site, which is more often more accurate than the view from the ground.

We teach legal obligations, but also consideration and awareness for people who don’t know what operators can and can’t do.

If you arrive home, and you are concerned because a drone is buzzing around your neighbourhood, look for sign written vehicles indicating who is operating, or pilots in high-vis attire. They may have knocked on your door when you were not home to give you notice of their flight while you were out.

What to do if you want to talk to a person flying a drone around a property or people.

When someone is operating a drone, it is best practice for safety reasons not to speak to them while flying. They are by law required to have eyes (visual line of sight) on their drone at all times, and if you start talking to them, this is distracting and potentially dangerous.

Please wait for the pilot to land the drone before talking to them, so you yourself are not posing a hazard.

Someone who had been certified by us has passed BOTH, the theory, and practical flight tests. They have been taught and tested on how to abide by privacy, safety, and other laws and will not want to respond while flying. They are not being rude, they are just following rules and requirements.

Someone without certification, flying under non-certified 101 rules still needs to understand the rules and regulations around flying over people or property.

If a Drone Operator is an agency using a drone for filming, they will also need to comply with the Privacy Act.

For general guidance on what someone making a recording by drone will need to consider, they should refer to the privacy commission’s guidelines for CCTV. For example, the agency needs to consider what the drone will be filming and whether that information is necessary for the agency to carry out its work, how the agency will inform the public that they are being recorded, how the recorded footage is being kept safe and secure, etc.

Where an individual is operating a drone which is collecting footage for their own personal use, generally this won’t raise issues under the Privacy Act. However, if the collection is highly offensive to the average person (for instance they were using their drone to film into peoples’ bedrooms and bathrooms), then this may breach the Privacy Act (or potentially raise criminal issues).

This is not a CAA issue – but a privacy commission one.

What can I do if I feel my privacy has been violated?

Many people who are concerned about a drone breaking their privacy are overestimating what the drone can actually see.

For example: from a 45-degree angle above a window, it is actually very difficult to see inside a property. This 45% “shooting angle” is common amongst real estate drone photographers.

Many people call the CAA around drone privacy concerns, the CAA drone team is short-staffed so they do get quite overwhelmed with inquiries that could be answered with more public education. This is why we try to be community-focused, when it comes to educating both students and the public.

Concerns can usually be alleviated by talking to the operator to understand what they’re doing and whether they are trained and certified.

There is much “hysteria” about drone privacy and because the rapidly increasing commercial use is a new & previous unfamiliar phenomenon. Education for the public will go along way to alleviate any misconceptions and unnecessary concern.

What if I am a 101 drone operator who is not yet certified, what can I do about complaints and demonstrate more responsibility?

Having certification offers peace of mind for you and the public. It also enables you to fly (with permission) within 4km’s of an Airport, Aerodrome or Heliport. If you want more information about certification talk to us.

Check out our courses here.