Drone Integration: ASMS rejects MOT, supports UAVNZ Joint Statement

Figure 1: UAVNZ Three-Tier Regulatory Proposal
The New Zealand Ministry of Transport (MOT) recently consulted on a range of proposals ostensibly intended to improve the integration of drones with the aviation sector. Key components of the proposals were:
  • Changes to some of the existing rules, although after 18 months of thinking about it the MOT still did not have detailed proposals;
  • An online test for all drone 'pilots';
  • Registration of all drones weighing more than 250g, largely so that the cost of the licensing and registration scheme can be recovered from drone operators;
  • Possibly remote identification of drones at some future date; and
  • Possibly requiring geo-awareness for all drones at some future date.

ASMS considers that the proposals have missed the mark in terms of what is actually needed to achieve effective drone integration. The proposals will create bureaucratic systems and add bureaucratic overhead, but not deliver any real benefit. Although a number of these proposals have been implemented in other jurisdictions the MOT did not present any evidence to support their contention that the proposals would be effective. Of considerable concern, the MOT proposes that the online test would allow an unlimited number of attempts. If this is going to deliver effective learning for drone pilots, then why not employ the same for the learner drivers licence test? Also of concern, some of the proposed 'minor' rule changes suggested a lack of understanding of how the rules apply in practice.

We support UAVNZ's joint statement, which proposes the three-tier system shown in Figure 1. A set of general operating rules, more restrictive than the current Part 101 rules, would delineate low risk operations and not require pilot licensing. Moderate risk operations would be able to be undertaken by pilots who held the appropriate licence (and rating if appropriate). Higher risk operations would be able to be undertaken only by those that held the appropriate certification. Many activities that currently require Part 102 certification would instead only require the pilot to be licensed, but that licence would be governed by Civil Aviation Rules rather than just being a certificate issued by an approved organisation.

In addition to the three-tier structure in Figure 1, we also support a certification process for organisations that manufacture, inspect, and approve large UAVs. We also propose that Airways Corporation be directed to issue NOTAMs requested by drone operators who hold a current pilot qualification issued by a Part 141 certificated organisation. Airways flatly refuses to issue NOTAMs requested by such persons unless they are operating under the authority of a Part 102 certificate, even if the NOTAM would improve aviation safety.

If you'd like to read more, a copy of our submission is available here.