Christchurch New Zealand becomes latest urban drone testing zone

Land Information New Zealand ( reports that the Residential Red Zone in Christchurch has turned out to be an ideal venue for a ground-breaking trial to test innovative new software that provides flight planning for commercial and recreational users of drones.

“Land Information New Zealand has been working closely with air traffic agency Airways to provide this unique 600 hectare testing ground in an urban environment in the Avon Corridor for drone users to trial the UAV Traffic Management (UTM) software without any inconvenience to home owners,” said the organization. “Airways partnered with global airspace management provider AirMap to develop a free iOS and Android app, which drone users can access to seek necessary airspace and public landowner approvals to fly, file flight plans, and access real–time information about other aircraft in the area, allowing them to stay safely separated.”

LINZ Group Manager Canterbury Recovery, Jeremy Barr says the Airways trial is a perfect example of how the Residential Red Zone can be used effectively for transitional activities until the final designation for the land has been developed by Regenerate Christchurch.

“It’s been great to see people returning to the Residential Red Zone, whether to fly a drone, compete in the recent Red Zone 6 mountain bike race or go for a run,” says Mr Barr.

LINZ is responsible for managing the Residential Red Zone areas, including supporting community groups to develop activities in the Avon Corridor.

As part of that role, LINZ and the Christchurch City Council provided detailed land data for the AirMap app developers and the terms and conditions for accessing the Crown land. Drone use in the Residential Red Zone must comply with Civil Aviation Rules.

Drone flights are significantly increasing in New Zealand, with the number of flights recorded by Airways going from from 30 to 600 per week over the past three years.

Christchurch is New Zealand’s second busiest area for drone flights, with construction companies, surveyors and structural engineers using drones as a safe way to survey both damaged buildings and the progress of works.

Another growth area is real estate agents using drones for promotional shots.

Airways Chief Executive Officer Graeme Sumner says, “The trial is an important step in investigating how Airways could develop a UTM system that safely integrates drones into New Zealand’s wider air traffic control network. There is potential for New Zealand to become a test-bed for the UAV industry through the implementation of a system that supports growth and development in a safe manner.”

Queenstown and Selwyn have also been selected for the trial along with Christchurch, including in the Christchurch Residential Red Zone, to provide a combination of rural and urban landscapes.

“We’re very excited to help New Zealand’s UAV pilots more easily and safely access the airspace,” said Ben Marcus, AirMap CEO.

“With the world watching, Airways and AirMap are demonstrating how UTM technologies can safely open the skies to high-scale drone operations, today.”

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