Current Drone Use Updates

​​Attention all RPAS (drone) operators

Flying drones (remote-piloted aircraft systems) near vegetation fires, without the proper approvals from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Fire Incident Controller, creates a hazard for manned aircraft fighting the fire.

While the vast majority of drone operators fly safely, as the popularity of drones increases, so too does the likelihood of them being flown when it's not safe to do so.

There have been no reported incidence of this happening in New Zealand (however, there have been several incidents in America and Canada where firefighting aircraft were grounded due drones in the vicinity).

What's the problem?

Without aerial firefighting the ability to put out vegetation fires is seriously limited, which may put lives at risk. Unauthorized drones in the area could result in:

  • Mid-air collision: A collision between a drone and a firefighting airplane or helicopter could lead to a catastrophic accident. Drones are difficult to see by pilots as they blend with the ground view and smoke conditions.
  • Grounding: unauthorized drones flying near a vegetation fire will lead to aircraft being grounded by the Fire Manager to avoid the drone. This could lead to the vegetation fire getting out of control.

If a drone is seen in the vicinity of a vegetation fire and is believed to have put aircraft or firefighters at risk, the Civil Aviation Authority can investigate. If a breach of the safety rules is identified, a fine can be issued.

If you're flying we can't

The National Rural Fire Authority wants everyone who flies a drone to understand the importance of keeping away from vegetation fires and other emergency situations at all times, unless they have the appropriate approvals from CAA and emergency services.

All drone operators must ensure they have read and understood the relevant CAA rules, especially Part 101 operating rules, which can be found at

 If you're flying we can't

Thank you for you cooperation, if you have any further questions please contact your local Rural Fire Authority. ​

Page reviewed: 11 Feb 2016 2:18pm