The Government has today released a plan for drones, which Transport Minister Phil Twyford said are estimated to be worth up to $7.9 billion to the economy.
A paper released today, Taking Flight: an aviation system for the automated age, sets out the Government's vision for how drones can be better integrated into the current transport system to develop a thriving, innovative and safe sector.
Twyford said drones would deliver economic benefits by doing tasks that are time intensive, expensive, and risky – such as monitoring crops, inspecting power lines and helping with emergency operations.
"New Zealand has an opportunity to be at the forefront of drone technology with sectors like forestry, agriculture, and conservation already harnessing their abilities.
"An example of the innovation that's already under way is Zephyr Airworks, who have partnered with Air New Zealand to test and develop its self-piloted, electric air taxi here in New Zealand.
"There are already over 77,000 drones in use in New Zealand and our Government knows that the public have concerns about privacy and safety.
"Safety is our top transport priority and there are a number of initiatives already under way, including looking at potential updates to the rules for using drones," Twyford said.
The Ministry of Transport is consulting on potential new powers for law enforcement agencies to seize or detain drones that are breaking the rules.
"Our Government is tackling the long-term issues and we acknowledge getting the regulations right will take some time, but it's important we take the time to get it right," Twyford said.
Andrew Shelley, director for Aviation Safety Management, told Heather du Plessis-Allan that there could be two and a half million drones being used throughout the year, with tourists bringing their own in.
He said that, despite this, there have been very few problems, and most people have been using them fine.
"I would suggest that registration isn't required. My company would likely do quite well out of registration, but I don't think the technology lends itself to registration."
Shelley said that neither the public nor the Police would be able to know if drones are registered, so this is potentially unenforceable.
He also does not believe that drone flight paths are needed for recreational drones.