New Zealand drone pilots can now request airspace approval from the country’s Civil Aviation Authority from their smartphones at Christchurch, Queenstown and Wanaka airports under a unmanned traffic management (UTM) system trial.
Airways, New Zealand’s air navigation service provider, has partnered with AirMap, California-based drone airspace service provider, to trial their UTM system at selected airports and public lands in the Canterbury and Queenstown regions.
Participants can use AirMap’s iOS and Android apps to seek necessary airspace and public landowner approvals to fly, file flight plans, and access real–time information about other aircraft in the area, allowing them to stay safely separated. This free service will be available over three months from the December 12 kick-off, on public lands in Christchurch City, Selwyn, and Queenstown Lakes District Councils, as well as the three regional airports named above.
Airways says that drone flights are increasing exponentially in New Zealand, with the number of flights recorded increasing from 30 to 600 per week over the past three years. These flights are supporting essential sectors including emergency services and inspections and monitoring in the power and utility industries.
Airways Chief Executive Officer Graeme Sumner said that Christchurch and Queenstown have been selected for the trial because of the combination of rural and urban landscapes the regions provide.
“The trial is an important step in investigating how Airways could develop a UTM system that safely integrates drones into New Zealand’s wider air traffic control network. There is potential for New Zealand to become a test-bed for the UAV industry through the implementation of a system that supports growth and development in a safe manner,” he said.
Airways has collaborated with local airports and authorities including councils and emergency services on the trial. This means AirMap users will be able to get automated approval to fly in public areas, including parks and reserves. Authorities can also share real-time updates about the location of events, community gatherings, emergencies and other areas to avoid.