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New report reveals who the folks operating drones in New Zealand are - and what they're using them for

Airways’ latest Drone Tracker Survey is out - providing a detailed snapshot of where the drone industry in Aotearoa is at. So what are the implications for the future of the technology - and industry - in New Zealand? And what industries stand to benefit the most from more drones in the sky?

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s… a drone!

Not exactly novel, sure. After all, drones are pretty much ubiquitous these days, and the odds that they’re only going to become more prevalent in the skies of Aotearoa (and everywhere on earth, really) are roughly the same as the All Blacks winning a match this year.

But who are the folks operating drones? Chances are, if you see a drone buzzing about above, the person operating it is male, at least 25, and lives somewhere in the North Island.

Such are some of the findings of Airways’ latest Drone Tracker Survey. The report – a survey of 1,442 drone operators in New Zealand that took place during two weeks this past March – offers a snapshot of who the people using drones are, and what they’re using drones for.

Among the most noteworthy findings is that, of 882 recreational drone operators who took part in the survey, about 95 percent were male. Somewhat unsurprisingly, most said they used drones for fun and/or photography. About 65 percent of respondents lived in the North Island.

Infographic courtesy of Airshare.

More diverse was what commercial drone operators said they were using drones for. While most said they used drones for photography and/or filming, the industries they were most likely to come from were real estate or construction, followed by film and television. Tourism was a distant eighth, with about half as many commercial drone operators as real estate.

Infographic courtesy of Airshare.

The question now, of course, is where things go from here. With Aotearoa seen as a test bed for new technologies (case in point: self-flying taxis undergoing trials in Canterbury, which we’ve previously touched on here), and the drone industry continuing to grow, there’s a need to address the lack of diversity before it becomes further entrenched (and thus more difficult to fix). There’s also a need to ensure that with more drones in the sky, they’re being operated safely – particularly in light of recent high-profile incidents that have nearly resulted in collisions with human-operated commercial airliners (which has prompted the likes of Air New Zealand to call for tougher safety regulations regarding drone operation).

But the survey has this bit of heartening news: the vast majority of drone operators – both recreational and commercial – said it was easy to comply with existing rules.

Oh, and there’s this: a full 70 percent said they believed they’d see an increase in demand for their drone services in the next 12 months.

Source: Drone Tracker Survey.

Read the full Drone Tracker Survey here.

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