Australasia Safety

NZ:- RPAS and Jet encounter investigation ends


The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has concluded its investigation into the sighting of an RPAS (drone) that was reported ‘too close’ to an Airbus A320 on Friday 25 September over Christchurch. It has not been able to identify the drone or find its owner.

The Acting Director of Civil Aviation (CAA), John Kay says the investigation could not locate the offending RPAS or its operator and thanked the public for its response to calls for information.

At the time, the pilot of an Air New Zealand Airbus A320, carrying 166 passengers, advised Air Traffic Control that a ‘sizeable’ red RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) passed close to the aircraft at an altitude of approximately 6,000 feet near Kaiapoi. The A320 was climbing out of Christchurch enroute to Auckland.

Although the reported ‘drone’ could not be positively identified, the CAA says awareness of RPAS operations has increased amongst the general public following the CAA’s appeal through the media for information.

“We were pleased that six witnesses came forward to help us with our investigation.”

Mr Kay said. The investigation report revealed that the Pilot judged the (drone) to be about one metre in length and half a metre wide and stated it was not a normal aircraft configuration. It contrasted quite clearly against the cloud cover below. It was observed for around 5 seconds. Co-ordinates of the sighting were provided by the pilot to Air Traffic Control by radio and Airways Corporation (who coordinate flights in controlled airspace) asked local area police to try and locate the origin of the RPAS. Police exhausted all avenues and could not locate the operator.

As a result of the incident and publicity, Airways Corporation have noticed that many more RPAS flight plan authorisation requests have been received on the Airshare website.

Mr Kay continued: “This is contributing to safer RPAS flights and is a positive outcome from the investigation process.”

The government introduced new Civil Aviation Rules on 1st August to enable sensible use of the technology while protecting third parties on the ground and in the air.

“We believe the vast majority of New Zealanders will find these rules sensible and enabling. We want to provide a safe environment for RPAS users and the public.” Mr Kay said.

“Although we have not been able to accurately identify the operator of the reported RPAS we are grateful to many members of the public, the Police, Airways and the media for highlighting the need to maintain safes skies in New Zealand.” Mr Kay concluded If any new information comes to light the CAA will re-open its investigation.

Visit the CAA website ( or for information on the rules.”

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