Harnessing the future of drones in Aotearoa

By D'Angelo Martin

'Taking Flight' is the government's new plan to stimulate and regulate the drone industry in Aotearoa.   Innovations include air taxis and unmanned drone use in industrial and emergency services.  

It is hoped the move will open new horizons and opportunities for aviation's smallest aircraft.

Minister of Transport Phill Twyford announced the Government's plan this morning for the new initiative. "It sets out how we want this sector to be innovative, thriving and safe.  Drones clearly have the potential to transform the way that we move goods and people and do business in New Zealand."

Drones will be capable of doing time-consuming, difficult, expensive and hard to monitor work.

"The value of drones for commercial purposes could be up to $7.9 billion worth for New Zealand over the next 25 years," says Twyford, "This covers a range of sectors including agriculture transport and horticulture."

For drone guru Ben Marr of Tauranga, who first touched a drone in 2014, the multiple uses of the gadgets were apparent a long time ago.

"When we were talking to NZ Post, they were doing deliveries, like up to about 25kg of parcel, you've got people in rural areas, instead of going down long driveways the parcel [could be] just door-dropped you know? "

But of course, rules and regulations are required for the safety of everyone. 

Twyford says, "There would have to be a regime of clear rules and a compliance regime, there's too much at stake here not to have a penalty regime in place."

Marr agrees, "It's about working with aviation and aviation laws and understanding of where you can go.  It might have to do with, I know we've got rules about flying at a certain height, so it might be about decreasing the height and then we're safe to fly around those zones at any time."

The first draft of the new initiative is to be completed and presented to the public in a year's time.