Drone use linked to theft of $4500 statue

Waikato Times - - National News - De­brin Fox­croft de­brin.fox­croft@stuff.co.nz

Drones could face tighter re­stric­tions as the Govern­ment as­sesses what it can do about rogue and dan­ger­ous op­er­a­tors.

Brief­ing notes re­leased un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act showed the Min­istry of Trans­port was look­ing to fol­low Europe’s stricter drone reg­u­la­tions af­ter an in­crease in com­plaints to the Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity (CAA).

How­ever, changes to the rules on drones can’t come soon enough for some res­i­dents in Auck­land.

Tina Hart said she felt her pri­vacy had been vi­o­lated by a drone that was hov­er­ing around her Te Atatu¯ Penin­sula house on Oc­to­ber 9.

‘‘I was look­ing up at the sky and saw it. We have a two-storey house. It came right in close, it was turn­ing left and right and look­ing all around.’’

She closed the cur­tains, and waited for the air­craft to go away.

The next morn­ing, Hart no­ticed a $4500 statue that stood as a guardian to her home was stolen.

‘‘My hus­band is from Welling­ton and it’s a ma­que­tte for So­lace in the Wind by Max Patte,’’ Hart said.

‘‘We thought about not putting it in the gar­den but it’s one of those things that needs to be in the wind.’’

Hart said there were no more copies of the statue avail­able for sale, and she was now much more wary about drones.

‘‘It’s so vi­o­lat­ing. It’s out of reach but in your space.’’

The growth of drone us­age has also raised sig­nif­i­cant safety ques­tions for other air­craft.

In the first seven months of 2018, the CAA re­ceived 268 com­plaints about drones – 104 com­plaints were re­lated to pri­vacy while 35 were near misses with air­craft, al­most match­ing the pre­vi­ous year’s to­tal for near misses.

The num­bers have in­creased dra­mat­i­cally over the past five years. Air New Zealand has been vo­cal in its calls for tighter reg­u­la­tions af­ter po­ten­tially catastrophic near misses be­tween drones and pas­sen­ger air­craft.

In the July brief­ing notes sent to As­so­ciate Min­is­ter of Trans­port Julie Anne Gen­ter, the min­istry’s ad­vis­ers sug­gested new drone rules in the Euro­pean Union could be ap­plied here.

The EU’s rules in­cluded re­quire­ments around the air­craft’s tech­ni­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties, owner reg­is­tra­tion and a re­mote iden­ti­fi­ca­tion trans­mit­ter that trans­mit­ted data, in­clud­ing the po­si­tion of the drone and the op­er­a­tor’s reg­is­tra­tion num­ber while in flight.

The EU-wide rules were adopted in June 2018 and New Zealand was wait­ing to see how ef­fec­tive the changes were in en­cour­ag­ing bet­ter com­pli­ance from drone op­er­a­tors.

Min­istry of Trans­port in­ter­na­tional con­nec­tions man­ager Tom Forster said reg­u­la­tions needed to keep up with drone tech­nol­ogy.

Work by the min­istry and Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity was look­ing to max­imise ben­e­fits of ad­vanced com­mer­cial drones while manag­ing the risks with smaller drones, he said.

Dan­ger­ous use of drones can be re­ported to the CAA ei­ther by email at isi@caa.govt.nz or by call­ing 0508 472 338.

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