Airspace Integration Trials

Our Airspace Integration Trials programme is dedicated to supporting the safe testing, development and market validation of advanced uncrewed aircraft in New Zealand.

A thriving, innovative and safe drone sector

The Government has a vision to integrate drones and uncrewed aircraft into the current transport system to develop a thriving, innovative and safe advanced aviation sector.

Read the Drone integration paper on the Ministry of Transport website:

Discussion Document Enabling Drone Integration [PDF 973 KB](external link) — Ministry of Transport

The integration of advanced uncrewed aircraft, capable of carrying people, cargo or performing time intensive, expensive or risky tasks, has the potential to deliver significant economic benefits.

Drone benefit study(external link) — Ministry of Transport

To unlock these benefits, industry investment in the development, testing and certification of new and unproven technologies will be vital to overcome technical 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 uncrewed aircraft, and accelerate their integration into our aviation system.

Airspace Integration Trials factsheet [PDF, 421 KB]

The programme builds on the potential for innovation under New Zealand’s current Civil Aviation Rules, providing a mechanism for the government to work with leading, and innovative domestic and international industry partners. These industry partners are testing and demonstrating uncrewed aircraft for a range of purposes including passenger transport, cargo delivery, agricultural services, and hazard management and monitoring services.

The programme is centrally managed by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Innovative Partnerships' team, working alongside the Civil Aviation Authority, the Ministry of Transport, Airways and other key stakeholders to support industry partners to take their technology from testing to in-service operations.

Industry partners

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, its self-flying, all-electric air taxi in Canterbury, New Zealand.

Wisk has been testing Cora in New Zealand since 2017 after more than 9 years of development in the United States.

Wisk New Zealand(external link)

Kea Aerospace

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 Kea 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.

Kea Aerospace(external link)

Envico Technologies

Envico Technologies (formerly ECT) became an industry partner in March 2021.

Envico is based in Tauranga and has a strong track record in predator control using drones, including the eradication of rodents on two islands in the Galapagos in 2019. In 2020, Envico was the recipient of a Department of Conservation grant for field trials using drones in the 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 it continues development of its predator control drones in New Zealand, especially with a project that will help protect Aotearoa’s flora and fauna from invasive species.

Envico Technologies(external link)

Aeronavics

Aeronavics joined the programme as an 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.

Aeronavics(external link)

Swoop Aero

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 its Kookaburra aircraft in the unique New Zealand environment as part of the programme.

Swoop Aero(external link)

Merlin Labs

Merlin Labs joined the programme in September 2021.

Merlin Labs is developing autonomous aviation infrastructure to enable the transportation of goods, and eventually people, without the requirement for pilots. In New Zealand, Merlin Labs is partnering with domestic aerospace companies to develop technology that allows existing certified aircraft to fly autonomously.

Merlin Labs will continue development of its digital co-pilot system as part of the programme, with the aim of establishing cargo routes in New Zealand.

Merlin Labs(external link)

Dawn Aerospace

Dawn Aerospace joined the programme in September 2021.

Founded in Christchurch, Dawn Aerospace is developing same-day reusable space launch vehicles that can take off and land from a conventional runway without specialised space launch infrastructure.

Dawn Aerospace is also manufacturing its green satellite propulsion systems in Christchurch for a range of global customers.

Dawn Aerospace(external link)

Pyper Vision

Pyper Vision joined the programme in April 2022.

New Zealand company Pyper Vision has been undertaking the research and development needed to clear fog at airports for more than 5 years. Pyper Vision is developing a solution that uses remotely piloted aircraft to clear fog by dispersing a safe water-absorbing product that soaks up moisture in the air.

Working across New Zealand and Australia, the company has undertaken more than 200 tests. Founded by a group of New Zealand aviators and led by aerospace entrepreneur Emily Blythe, Pyper Vision’s product is listed as an approved compound by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

Pyper Vision(external link)

OneReg

OneReg joined the programme in May 2022.

OneReg is a compliance management tool designed to optimise the interface between regulators like the Civil Aviation Authority and businesses. OneReg helps operators track their documentation through the regulatory system and understand the regulations that apply, reducing the time required for application assessment and allowing a greater focus on ensuring safety.

The Civil Aviation Authority has approved OneReg for submission of Part 102 applications.

OneReg(external link)

MAUI63

MAUI63 joined the programme in May 2022.

MAUI63 is a not-for-profit charitable trust that uses advanced aviation and artificial intelligence to identify Māui and Hector's dolphins. With so few Māui dolphins left on the planet, MAUI63 is dedicated to capturing data about dolphins and other marine mammals to inform conservation plants that protect them from fishing, climate change and other threats they face.

MAUI63(external link)

More information

Read the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation’s announcement on the beehive website.

NZ Government establishes innovative, industry-focused Airspace Integration Trials Programme(external link) — beehive.govt.nz

The Ministry of Transport is the government’s principal transport advisor. Read more about the Government’s vision for the drone sector, and the benefits of airspace integration.

Discussion Document Enabling Drone Integration [PDF 973 KB](external link) — Ministry of Transport

Drone benefit study(external link) — Ministry of Transport

For more information on the current safety rules for drones and advanced uncrewed aircraft in New Zealand, see the Civil Aviation Authority website.

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: 12 May 2022