Drone pilots risk America’s Cup cancellation if they fly around Auckland waterfront on race days

There’re concerns illegal drone flying could bring the upcoming Christmas Regatta and the Amercia’s Cup to a grinding halt.

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It comes as 2020 sees a record number of complaints involving drones. Source: 1 NEWS

The Civil Aviation Authority is warning pilots that strict no-fly zones are in place on the Auckland waterfront on race days.

Corey Price, the authority's unmanned aircraft team leader, told 1 NEWS that there is a real risk races could be cancelled.

“I fully expect that if a drone came in and caused some disruption to one of the yachts or the crew during a race, I expect that would disrupt the race.”

Officials are teaming up with police to patrol the skies, and say they’ll be working hard to make sure no one is breaking the rules.

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Tomorrow’s the first day of racing at the World Series Regatta, a prelude to the Prada Cup and America’s Cup. Source: 1 NEWS

“For a company that operated inside the restricted area without the right approvals, they could be facing an instant fine of up to $6000.”

You can read about the airspace restrictions here.

Richard Milner is one of the accredited pilots who has clearance to fly on race days.

He says the last thing officials need while out on the water is a distraction.

“While I cannot stress enough that you've got to have fun with this equipment, we've got to remember it's a tool at the end of the day and misusing it can be catastrophic.”

Drone complaints on the rise

While the number of serious incidents is declining, exclusive figures obtained by 1 NEWS reveal that 2020 has been the worst year for drone complaints.

2020 – 532

2019 – 469

2018 – 506

However, Price says the increase is likely being caused by more consumer-level drones being purchased, and the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown.

“I would personally attribute some of that to people that were at home bored and decided they might get their drone out and see what's happening in the neighbourhood.”