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Can You Fly a Drone in Queenstown?

Queenstown in New Zealand is on Lake Wakatipu on the South Island shores near the Southern Alps.

The area features mining towns, vineyards, and a healthy adventure sports scene with jet boating, skiing, and bungee jumping. You’d feel right at home piloting your drone around.

Can you fly a drone in Queenstown, New Zealand?

You can operate a drone in parts of Queenstown but not any restricted airspace near the Queenstown Airport unless you have Air Traffic Control approval. When flying over someone’s personal property, you must have their permission.

In today’s article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about safely and legally flying a drone in Queenstown.

Make sure you keep reading, as you won’t want to miss it!

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Can you fly a drone in Queenstown?

Queenstown is a quaint town measuring only 3,361 square miles. If you look at the town on a drone map, you’ll see all sorts of colors across this area, so let’s talk further about what those mean.

First, we’ll discuss the red areas. These represent controlled airspace.

For those who don’t know, drones can only operate in uncontrolled airspace. The Queenstown Airport is in this red area, restricting where you can use your drone unless you have permission.

In the next section, we’ll discuss those permissions and the difference between shielded and unshielded drone operations, so be sure to check that out.

Yellow areas on the map indicate Low Flying Zones. The Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand, the leading aviation authority in the country, establishes these zones.

An LFZ prohibits all drone activity unless and until the CAA deactivates the flight restriction.

You’ll also see some blue circles on the map hidden among the red areas of Queenstown. The blue areas denote aerodrome boundaries.

You cannot fly within four kilometers or 2.49 miles of an aerodrome in New Zealand, so keep your distance.

Further, to enter the blue areas, you’d need a drone license or certificate from the CAA, either the Part 61 or Part 149 license.

You also require an aerodrome operator’s agreement but not approval from Air Traffic Control.

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Shielded vs. unshielded drone operations

If you’re interested in flying inside the red zones of Queenstown, you must know about shielded and unshielded operations so you have the appropriate permissions.

Let’s delve into both types of drone flights now.

Shielded drone use in Queenstown

If you’ll fly your drone within 100 meters or 328 feet of any object that could stop your drone, that’s a shielded operation.

For example, you’d use your drone within 328 feet of trees in a forest or any building in Queenstown.

When you have permission to engage in shielded operations, you can fly your drone within 4 kilometers or 2.49 miles of an aerodrome in both uncontrolled and controlled airspace.

You can also operate your drone at night.

However, you do have limitations. Your drone cannot ascend over the top of the object in question, whether that’s the top of the tree line or over a building.  

Unshielded drone use in Queenstown

If your drone flight doesn’t quite fit the parameters of the above description, you’ll engage in an unshielded drone flight.

Depending on where you want to use your drone, the protocols vary.

If you’ll stay within 4 kilometers or 2.49 miles of an aerodrome and fly exclusively in the blue parts of a drone map, you must have Air Traffic Control permission. So how exactly do you obtain that permission?

First, you have to create an account on AirShare.

Once you make your account, you can log your flight. If Air Traffic Control approves your flight, you’ll receive an email mentioning as much.

Even with approval, you must still contact the Queenstown Air Traffic Control Tower ahead of launching your drone. When your flight will conclude, you need to reach out to the air traffic control tower again.

You must also have a spotter who can watch traffic patterns while you use your drone.

If they see any manned aircraft in the vicinity, you should plan accordingly by getting out of their flight path while granting them the right of way in the meantime.

A bystander can also assist with safe launching and landing.

Further, you must have a CAA qualification of some sort. Even if you don’t have a Part 61 license, the standard for recreational and commercial pilots in New Zealand, you need at least a Model Flying NZ Wings Badge.

If you cannot provide some training qualification, you must have a spotter with you who has more advanced flight experience and the correct qualifications.

If you want to engage in an unshielded flight in a red area of a drone map, you must contact Air Traffic Control and receive their permission following the steps described above.

You must also contact the Queenstown Air Traffic Control Tower ahead of launching and landing your drone.

>> Read More: Can You Fly a Drone in Queensland National Parks?

Flying over private property in Queenstown

Even if your drone operations don’t occur around or near an airport or heliport in Queenstown, if you’ll fly near private property, you must know the rules for doing so.

In 2015, the CAA enforced a new law that mandates that drone pilots have flight consent when flying over private property.

That consent can come from the property owner themselves or someone managing the property.

That goes for every piece of private property you’ll fly over with your drone. For example, let’s say you’re planning a flight path across 10 houses.

Well, for every one of those 10 houses, you’d need to obtain permission. That’s the case even if you know the inhabitants of the property or if they’re complete strangers.

Every property owner reserves the right to say no, which will cause you to have to deviate from your original flight path.

Obtaining other consent

You’re not necessarily free and clear to use your drone even if you don’t fly in any restricted airspace or over private property.

If you plan to operate a drone over a boat, you need the boat owner’s permission. Barring that, you must get consent from everyone on the boat before you can launch your drone.

When soaring over a lake, you must have Harbour Master permission.

If you’ll venture out to the Queen’s Chain foreshore, you must contact Land Information New Zealand first and have them approve it.

You’ll also need permission if your drone flies over reserves, parks, foothpaths, and roadways. You can contact the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

Queenstown drone laws to remember before your flight

The CAA requires all drone pilots operating in Queensland to follow these rules.

Do not ascend over 400 feet from ground level

Most countries in the world limit drones to an altitude of 400 feet. In New Zealand, the same restriction applies. That’s approximately 120 meters up.

Keep your drone in your visual line of sight

Visual line of sight or VLOS is an acronym to always have on your mind when using your drone. For safety reasons, you cannot legally allow your drone to venture beyond where you can naturally see it.

You can’t use a smartphone, monitor, or binoculars to track the zone but your own two eyes.

If you can’t maintain VLOS on your own, please bring a spotter who can.

Give manned aircraft the right of way

We mentioned this before, but it’s worth reiterating. You must always yield to manned aircraft, staying out of their flight path whenever possible and giving them the right of way if you interrupt their operations.

Do not fly at night (unless you have permission)

You’ll recall that shielded drone operations in Queenstown permit you to use your drone at night. However, you cannot fly after sundown if you’re engaging in unshielded operations.

Limit hazards to aircraft, property, and persons

As the drone pilot, you’re wholly responsible for what your UAV does. Engage a fair distance from other unmanned aircraft to avoid collisions.

Limit how far you fly from property both public and private. Stay away from individuals and crowds, and do not do anything to risk their privacy or wellbeing.

Don’t fly a drone weighing 25 kilograms

In New Zealand, the drone weight restriction is 25 kilograms or 55.12 pounds. You cannot fly if your drone weighs at least that or more.


Queenstown is a town in New Zealand known for its high-octane sports. You can bring a drone to Queenstown, but you’ll have to obtain many permissions depending on where you want to fly it.

Those permissions range from Air Traffic Control to a private property owner in the case of flying over Queenstown’s neighborhoods.

In addition, you need the appropriate drone license and must always follow CAA rules.