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Waitaki District Council Property and Communications staff this week met with farmer representatives, NZAA, Heliventures staff, aero club and hangar users concerned about drones being flown at night in the vicinity of Ōamaru Airport. At a meeting held at the offices of Heliventures, council staff heard of illegal night flying from 8pm till midnight, sometimes for several nights in succession. Residents spoke of drones flown over private property, hovering outside their living room windows, “Watching me do dishes.”
Drones had been observed flying over McPherson and Ferry roads, and the operator followed towards Seven Mile. Described as ‘a very big drone with powerful lights,’ one resident said, “My pony was like, what’s that?!” Calves were pushing through fences in fear and the group feel there can be no other motive than a criminal one.
Described as ‘sinister’ and ‘malicious’ ‒ without required notification and approval any night flying is illegal. “There’s no way they should be in your cowshed, or outside your living room window two nights in a row,” said a local farmer. The drones being used are the large professional type that you need a license to operate but the council is not aware of any registered user. Trainee pilots at NZAA had reported drones flying very close to trainee pilots on night flights.
Drones can’t be flown within 4k of an airport, at night over private land or over people you do not have consent from. Drone operators should be able to see their drone with their own eyes, not through binoculars, a monitor or a laptop.
Wataiki District Council Ōamaru Airport Manager Andries du Plooy advises, “Take a photo or get a video of the drone and if possible the operator and report it as best you can.
The invasion of privacy is unacceptable and the best thing to do at this stage is to report any suspicious drone activity to the Civil Aviation Authority and to the Police, especially if you feel threatened.”
Sergeant Blair Wilkinson, of Waitaki Police said, “We have been contacted by a number of people concerned about drone activity in rural areas. We aren’t aware of any subsequent thefts but encourage people to contact us if they see any suspicious behaviour including drones, and where possible note the rego number of any vehicle, but avoid confrontation.”
Corey Price, drone specialist at the CAA said any invasion of privacy is a matter for Police and those observing illegal drone activity should in the first instance call Police who will support the CAA and gather evidence for any eventual prosecution. Current penalties for illegal drone use were in the vicinity of $3,000.
Freephone: 0508 4SAFETY (0508 472 338)
Available 8am to 4:30pm Mon-Fri. Voicemail after hours.
See also Aviation Safety Concerns and Report Dangerous Drone Activity.
If a drone presents an immediate danger, call the police on 111.