RM Journal

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Aerial Conflicts: Drone regulation and gaps in spatial protection

Drones have undoubtedly arrived in New Zealand landscapes, but less apparent is that adequate regulatory responses have accompanied them, writes Pip Wallace, Senior Lecturer, The University of Waikato.

Privacy, and human health and safety have constituted the key concerns in relation to the operation of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) in the environment. However, as RPA operation intensifies and potential applications and modes of deployment proliferate, opportunities for new forms of conflict emerge.

Drone racing and firefighting in swarms, Amazon postal delivery, commercial applications of fertiliser and agrichemicals, photogrammetry for environmental management, image capture for sporting events and real estate sales, wildlife monitoring, bird watching and recreational flight indicate new opportunities for RPA users. Flight at low altitude, manoeuvrability and proximity to subject are characteristics of RPA deployment. These applications suggest significant intensification of the use of airspace in contrast to more traditional uses and the potential for novel forms of resource use conflict.

These applications suggest significant intensification of the use of airspace in contrast to more traditional uses and the potential for novel forms of resource use conflict.

For humans, in addition to privacy, and health and safety concerns, RPA operation has the potential to generate nuisance effects which disturb human use and enjoyment of the environment. Noise, special audible characteristics and visual impacts are potential adverse effects from RPA operation, issues which intensify where RPA agglomerate. The extent of such effects is neither clear nor well researched.

The technology is emergent in the landscape, varies in form and capability and further, effects generated may be dependent on the nature of the receiving environment. However, the potential for nuisance effects suggests a need to condition the use of RPA in sensitive environments…

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