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Drone Operator Fined $3000 For ‘Favour’ To Palmerston North City Council

Derrick Threatt



Drone Operator Receive Fine

[By Thomas Heaton for]  Robert Edwards received two “excessive and ridiculous” fines, amounting to $3000, for using his drone to film the Anzac Day centenary commemorations in April.

“I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong,” he said.

Taken at about 6.10am on Anzac Day, this picture has cost Robert Edwards $3000 in fines.

“I’m not looking to shun responsibility, but [the fine] does seem to be extortionate.”

The city council paid Edwards $500 for his work with the drone but would not help him with the fine.

The pictures were shared on the council’s Facebook page. “[The council] were over the moon. It’s a great picture.”

But the Civil Aviation Authority received a complaint from a former pilot at the ceremony, Edwards said.

“Ninety-five per cent of people were pleased with it. Yes, OK, I broke the rules… I didn’t mean to.

“I might have pissed off one guy by being a bit noisy.”

Council chief executive Paddy Clifford said: “Mr. Edwards was contracted to take some photos for council on Anzac Day. It is our understanding that Mr. Edwards, as the pilot or operator, was responsible for complying with the CAA guidelines and rules covering the use of the drone.”

The Government recently reviewed rules around the use of drones and the changes came into force on August 1. Edwards said he believed there needed to be more education on the rules around drone use.

Edwards was fined under the old rules, $2000 for operating a “model aircraft” in controlled airspace without permission and a $1000 fine for operating the drone “at night”.

How Drone Operator Can Avoid Fine?

Drone operators must seek the permission of the landowner and the air traffic control unit in control of the space. Palmerston North is fully controlled by the air control tower at Palmerston North Airport.

Edwards is now asking for some support from the city council, to help his case with the CAA.

He operated the drone for about a minute at 6.10am on Anzac Day and for about four to five minutes on the previous day. According to the CAA, he had operated the drone 22 minutes before the day started, Edwards said.

A CAA spokeswoman said the fines were fixed under the Civil Aviation (Offences) Regulations 2006.

“The CAA has no power to increase or decrease the value of these fines, but if we deemed a breach to be particularly serious, we would look at prosecution rather than simply fines.”

Those fines also covered the use of:

  • hot-air balloons,
  • kites,
  • rockets,
  • gyrogliders or
  • parasails.

Edwards did not know he was breaking any rules and was primarily concerned he might cause offense to those attending the ceremony. He said he called the council to make sure there were no aircraft attending the ceremony.

When the CAA made contact, Edwards said he did not expect the fines he received, calling them excessive.

“I was expecting a slap on the wrist. I was very welcoming.

“I’ve done four or five jobs since then. Subsequently… I have done everything right.”


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