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Put safety first during NASA balloon launch

Put safety first during NASA balloon launch, Airways appeals to drone flyers

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) users are being urged to keep clear of Wanaka aerodrome when NASA launches a super-pressure scientific balloon into near space.

According to civil aviation rules, UAVs should not be flown within four kilometres of any aerodrome without permission. With NASA now onsite at Wanaka aerodrome preparing to launch its 2.3-tonne, 90m in diameter balloon, air navigation service provider Airways is urging UAV/drone flyers around Wanaka to be particularly mindful of where they fly.

This year's launch mission follows NASA's successful launch last year from the same site.

Airways New Zealand is responsible for managing the logistics of the launch and the balloon’s ascent through controlled airspace. As well as urging UAV operators to avoid the area during the launch, Airways is reminding them to make sure they’re aware of their responsibilities, by visiting the website airshare.co.nz.

“UAVs are becoming ever more accessible, but present a serious risk if they’re not used safely and in accordance with the civil aviation rules,” says Airways’ Chief Operating Officer Pauline Lamb.

“Like all aviation operators, UAV operators need to make sure they understand civil aviation requirements before they take to the sky – and this is particularly important during events such as the NASA balloon launch where aviation safety is paramount to a successful launch. It might be tempting to use your UAV to take a closer look at this exciting event – but please consider safety and keep drones away at this time.”

As a general guide:

In uncontrolled airspace UAVs can only be flown below 400 feet above ground level, and not within 4km of any aerodrome, unless approval has been granted from the aerodrome operator

To fly in controlled airspace, UAV operators are required to request access from air traffic control.

The airshare.co.nz website is an online hub for all UAV flyers in New Zealand. As well as learning about the Civil Aviation rules and where they can fly, operators can use the website to log their UAV flights and request access to control zones through air traffic control.

Developed by Airways New Zealand in collaboration with industry group UAVNZ, Callaghan Innovation and the Civil Aviation Authority, airshare is widely supported by the commercial UAV community and recreational flyers.

Airshare also offers an online interactive training course for new and current flyers.

“Drone 101 training can be accessed via a mobile device (IOS and Android) or desktop and covers helpful tips, CAA rules and six useful checklists to guide users through a drone flight from start to finish,” says Ms Lamb.


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