“Shielded operation means an operation of an aircraft within 100 m of, and below the top of, a natural or man-made object.”
This means you must fly your drone at a height where if you lose control, the drone cannot pass through the object and escape into the area beyond it.
Why CAA created a rule around shielded operations
This rule was put in place to stop your drone straying into the path of other aircraft, should you lose control. Whatever the barrier is, it must be solid enough to stop a UAV that has lost contact with it’s operator.
This rule generally applies to areas where you are flying within 4km of a control zone or around airports.
What if my drone is small, does the rule still apply?
Even if your drone is small – it can still create a significant hazard – not to mention cause significant disruption to air traffic control.
This is why aviation rules dictate that drones must not fly anywhere near aircraft taking off or landing.
You must stay at least 4 kilometres away from any airport or aerodrome, and yes this includes hospital helipads, top dressing strips or those used for sightseeing operations.
What we know as “controlled airspace” can extend well beyond the 4km zone limitations around controlled airports.
This is also why before you launch your drone, you need to check the area you’re planning to fly in.
VNC charts which you can see in the https://airshare.co.nz gives you a clear delineation of controlled airspace within New Zealand. It doesn’t matter if your drone is going to be taking a flight from your own property, it is inside that controlled airspace, the same rules apply.
You may be able ask for an exemption to fly a drone in controlled airspace if you log your intended flight details on https://airshare.co.nz and ask Air Traffic Control for clearance. They will issue a NOTAM to let other pilots know there will be a drone flying in that location at a specific time and date. You will most likely be restricted to a height and time frame.
There is another way to fly your drone within CAA restricted zones and this is where a “shielded operation” comes in.
It means you fly your drone near and below the height of an object that shields your drone from other aircraft.
Such an object could be a building, a line of trees (with no gaps), or even your house.
The rules state that you can fly your drone within a 100m zone around that object, and never above the object’s height.
If you’re flying a shielded operation within 4 kilometres of an airport or aerodrome – areas where there are likely to be other aircraft flying – there must be a physical barrier between your drone and the airport.
Whatever the barrier is, it legally needs to be solid enough to stop your drone flying past it, should you lose control.
You will need to maintain a drone flying height that is below the height of the barrier and the shielding object so there’s no danger of the drone escaping and endangering aircraft.
Another benefit of a shielded area is that you can fly your drone at night, something that is otherwise prohibited for non-licensed drone pilot.
Something else to consider before you do a shielded operation is to switch off any obstacle avoidance features on your drone as these can make your drone automatically fly up and over your barrier.
We do training and certification for drone flying, and we teach you all you need to know about drone flying rules.
Remember, wherever you fly your drone, if you see another aircraft, you should land immediately. If you have a radio, you can call on the frequency on the chart and let other pilots know what you are doing.