Drone incident being treated seriously

An Air New Zealand plane and remotely piloted aircraft system were "too close" and authorities have launched an investigation after the near-miss.

The pilot of an Air New Zealand A320, with passengers on board, reported seeing the aircraft system (RPAS) flying in controlled air space north of Christchurch about 5:45pm last night.

The Director of Civil Aviation (CAA), Graeme Harris confirmed the incident was reported to the CAA and a safety investigation is underway.

"Technically this report will be recorded as a near miss, and based on the information to hand at this time it raises significant safety concerns," Mr Harris said.

"We are very concerned that an RPAS pilot appears to have allowed their aircraft to fly in such close proximity to a passenger aircraft. The RPAS should not have been anywhere near the Jet. It simply shouldn't have been in that airspace," he added.

Transport minister Simon Bridges said the incident was being treated seriously and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) safety investigation unit had launched a full investigation into the matter soon after the sighting was reported.

"While this reporting is concerning, I am satisfied that it is being investigated fully, with urgency, and is being treated very seriously," Bridges said.

"I am also confident that the Government's new regulatory regime for RPAS is fit for purpose and able to deal with every possible circumstance. Unsafe RPAS flights are unlawful and will be dealt with accordingly."

A new civil aviation rule for RPAS, which came into effect on August 1, requires anyone who wants to fly a RPAS beyond what is allowed for traditional model aircraft, such as at night, beyond line of sight or above 400 feet, to apply for certification from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Under CAA rules, RPAS must not fly above 120 metres unless certain conditions are met, the craft must weigh less than 25 kilograms and it can only be flown during daylight hours. RPAS operators must also be able to see their craft at all times and are restricted from flying in controlled airspace without the approval of air traffic control.

Regan Schoultz

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