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.

Read the Airspace Integration Trials programme factsheet [PDF, 421 KB]

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 innovativepartnerships@mbie.govt.nz

Wisk New Zealand

Wisk New Zealand(external link) (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

Kea Aerospace(external link) 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

Envico Technologies(external link) (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.

Read more about the New predator-control drones to help nature in hard-to-reach place(external link)

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.

More information

Read the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation’s announcement here(external link)

Read background information on testing and developing advanced aviation technologies in New Zealand. [PDF, 557 KB]

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).

Contact us

If you would like to discuss opportunities to test and develop advanced aviation technologies in New Zealand, contact innovativepartnerships@mbie.govt.nz.

Last updated: 11 March 2021 Last reviewed: 28 February 2020