Airspace Integration Trials
Our Airspace Integration Trials programme is dedicated to supporting the safe testing, development and market validation of advanced unmanned aircraft in New Zealand.
A thriving, innovative and safe drone sector
The Government has a vision to integrate drones and unmanned aircraft into the current transport system to develop a thriving, innovative and safe advanced aviation sector.
Read the Drone integration paper [PDF, 973KB](external link) on the Ministry of Transport website.
The integration of advanced unmanned aircraft, capable of carrying people, cargo or performing time intensive, expensive or risky tasks, has the potential to deliver significant economic benefits(external link).
To unlock these benefits, a number of technical challenges still need to be overcome. Industry investment in the development, testing and certification of new and unproven technologies will be vital to overcome these challenges and achieve the Government’s vision of integration.
The Airspace Integration Trials programme
We have established an Airspace Integration Trials programme to facilitate the safe testing, development and market validation of advanced unmanned aircraft, and accelerate their integration into our aviation system.
The programme builds on the potential for innovation under New Zealand’s current Civil Aviation Rules. It provides the mechanism for Government to work with leading, innovative domestic and international industry partners to test and demonstrate unmanned aircraft for a range of purposes including passenger transport, cargo delivery, agricultural services, and hazard management and monitoring services.
The programme will be centrally managed by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Innovative Partnerships' team, working alongside the Civil Aviation Authority, the Ministry of Transport and other key stakeholders to support industry partners to take their technology from testing to in-service operations.
We are interested in hearing from any potential industry partners. If you would like to discuss opportunities to enter the programme, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Wisk New Zealand
Wisk New Zealand (formerly operating in New Zealand as Zephyr Airworks) became the first industry partner in the programme in early 2020.
The Government signed an MOU with Wisk to support the establishment of a world-first passenger transport trial of Cora, their self-flying, all-electric air taxi in Canterbury, New Zealand.
Wisk have been testing Cora in New Zealand since 2017 after more than nine years of development in the United States.
With the agreement in place, planning for a passenger transport trial in Canterbury is underway.
Kea Aerospace joined the programme in November 2020. This partnership will support the development and testing of a new aircraft, the Kea Atmos, with the potential to transform aerial imaging.
The solar-powered Kea Atmos will be able to fly continuously in the upper atmosphere for months at a time, providing competitive pricing for high-resolution data collection.
The Atmos will offer data collection options for applications including environmental monitoring, agriculture, smart cities, forestry, maritime awareness and disaster management.
This work has the potential to deliver significant economic benefits for New Zealand, and helps put us on the map as a great environment for research and development.
Envico Technologies (formerly ECT) became the third industry partner in March 2021.
Envico are based in Tauranga and have a strong track record in predator control using drones, including the eradication of rodents on two islands in the Galapagos in 2019. In 2020, they were the recipients of a Department of Conservation grant, enabling them to begin a series of field trials using drones for dispersal of non-toxic cereal baits.
In order to scale up operations for these trials, Envico is developing a new, larger aerial baiting drone, converting a small helicopter to enable remotely piloted operations.
We’re eager to see Envico’s progress as they continue development of their predator control drones in New Zealand, especially with a project that will help protect Aotearoa’s flora and fauna from invasive species.
Aeronavics joined the programme as the fourth industry partner in May 2021.
Aeronavics is a Waikato-based company developing automated drone technology to support agricultural productivity. The company has over ten years of experience investing in and developing drone technology.
The uncrewed aircraft being developed by Aeronavics will enable automated monitoring of farms and assist with management of soil and water quality. Enabling farmers to use drones in remote and hazardous environments will also help to reduce the risk of serious injury.
Swoop Aero joined the programme in June 2021.
Swoop Aero is an Australian drone-powered logistics company founded to transform the way the world moves essential supplies. The company seeks to sustainably transform health supply chains to improve health outcomes in both urban and rural communities.
Swoop Aero’s Kookaburra aircraft will help to bridge transport and infrastructure gaps that currently limit access to essential supplies. The Kookaburra will also be able to assist responses to natural disasters such as earthquakes, severe weather events and epidemics.
Swoop Aero will continue to develop and adapt their Kookaburra aircraft in the unique New Zealand environment as part of the programme.
- Advanced Aviation Technologies platform-play: Positioning New Zealand as the location of choice for the emerging unmanned aircraft sector [PDF 12MB]
- Establishing a programme of airspace integration trials [PDF 7.1MB]
- Establishing a programme of airspace integration trials: next steps [PDF 5.7MB]
- Airspace Integration Trials programme: update and proposed ‘soft-launch’ [PDF 3.3MB]
- Airspace Integration Trials Programme – Terms of Reference [PDF 722KB]
The Ministry of Transport(external link) is the Government’s principal transport advisor. Read more about the Government’s vision for the drone sector(external link), and the benefits of airspace integration(external link).
For more information on the current safety rules for drones and advanced unmanned aircraft in New Zealand, see the Civil Aviation Authority(external link).
If you would like to discuss opportunities to test and develop advanced aviation technologies in New Zealand, contact email@example.com.