Massey University School of Aviation RPAS course

UAVNZ RPAS team at booth

The RPAS, Introduction to Regulations and Operator Conduct course, contains eleven modules and is designed and delivered by a team comprising of Massey University School of Aviation Flight Instructors, an in- house RPAS specialist and an RPAS consultant. In line with the School of Aviation’s commitment to ‘scenario-based’ learning, participants on this course will be challenged to resolve a number of scenarios directly pertinent to the safe operation of RPAS. Successful outcomes from this course meet the initial training requirements for CAA Rule Part 102.

It is designed to meet CAA requirements for RPAS operators with little or no aviation experience who want to enter the industry or further develop their understanding of the use of RPAS in the aviation environment. The course is designed to bridge the gap between RPAS operators and aviators to enhance the safety of your operation. It delivers a syllabus centred around safe operating practices featuring hands-on scenarios and practical demonstrations by industry experts. Course participants will be challenged to resolve a number of scenarios directly pertinent to safe operation of RPAS.

The Massey University School of Aviation is a CAA Rule Part 141 Certified provider for both piloted and non-piloted training. This course has been developed by Flight Instructors who are experienced at introducing students to aviation. It is incorporated within the School’s Safety Management System (SMS).

The Massey University RPAS course is available via two options.

1)     A full three-day internal course delivered at the Massey University Aviation Centre in Palmerston North. This option includes the two- day theory component immediately followed on day three by the RPAS Flight Examination.

2)    Alternatively, candidates may complete the eleven theory modules online and schedule the RPAS practical assessment (RPAS Flight Examination) at a later date.

Group courses are also available on- site where a team of Massey RPAS instructors will travel to a clients’ workplace to deliver the full three-day course in situ.

Why do you need to do this course?

All Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) operations were previously governed by regulations designed for model aircraft. These regulations are overseen by Model Flying NZ and intended for enthusiasts at model clubs where knowledge of these operating rules is required for membership. This worked safely in the past. However the dramatic increase in both the availability of RPAS to a range of users - relatively few of whom are affiliated to these clubs, - and the extraordinary development of  RPAS technology and usage across a wide  arrange of applications and industries has seen a sharp increase in safety issues arising from a lack of awareness of regulations pertaining to operating RPAS devices in the NZ aviation environment.

Massey University School of Aviation Flight Instructors consulted widely with CAA, RPAS users and other manned airspace users in developing this course, which is designed to challenge participants to really think about the airspace environment, other airspace users and most of all – safety.

Course Outcomes

PART 1:  Classroom ‘theory’ course – (2 days). On campus or online. On completion the candidate will be required to sit an online examination. This is an ‘open -book’ examination where the aim is for candidates to demonstrate that they know how and where to access the information required to operate their RPAS units safely and legally ion the NZ aviation environment.

PART 2:  ‘RPAS Flight Examination’   (1 day) – Classroom and field activities. Flight Examination with Rain Check for 6 months possible. Successful completion of the RPAS Flight examination will gain the candidate their Log Book Sticker.

On successful completion of both parts, candidates will be awarded the Massey University Certificate of Competency - RPAS - Endorsed Multi-Rotor ("Wings Badge").

The Certificate of Competency complies with the initial training requirements for Part 102 operators. It is an approved Pilot Qualification which entitles candidates to fly or supervise a multi-rotor operation within 4km of an aerodrome with the aerodrome operator’s agreement.

Our clients include:

  • NZ Racing Board
  • NZ Defence Force (Army - RNZAF - RNZ Navy)
  • NZ Police
  • NZ Fire Service
  • NZ Urban Search and Rescue
  • Fairfax Media
  • Interpine Forestry Innovations Ltd
  • Fulton Hogan
  • Hawkes Bay Regional Council
  • Scan Power
  • Landcare Research
  • Opus International Consultants
  • AUT
  • Auckland University
  • Otago University
  • NIWA
  • GNS Science
  • Tararua District Council
  • Northland Regional Council
  • Department of Conservation
  • Masterton District Council
  • TVNZ
  • Land Information NZ
  • PowerNet
  • Wel Networks Ltd
  • Youth Search and Rescue

Course Structure

RPAS field

After successfully completing this course you will:

  • Be able to interpret the various aviation documents and regulations and apply these to your operation
  • Be able to identify threats to your operation and develop methods of mitigation
  • Understand the conduct required to operate an RPAS in accordance with aviation best practice
  • Practice and comprehend radio telephony procedures and operations
  • Submit as evidence of training from a Part 141-M6 training organisation for an RPAS Part 102 Operator Certificate

Massey University RPAS course now offers candidates two options.

1)  Internal:  Candidates attend a full three- day course delivered on campus at the Massey Aviation Centre in Palmerston North on one of the scheduled public courses during 2020

2)  Combination Online and Internal:  Candidates complete the theory modules and assessment online, followed by the RPAS Flight Examination at a later date.  

On-Campus Course

The internal course commences with two days of theory introducing students to aspects of the aviation environment particularly relevant to the operation of RPAS. This is followed by a flight examination on day three.  In the two weeks immediately after the internal course, candidates will be able to access and complete the RPAS online assessment which will be available via the University’s web-learning environments- STREAM.
Most public RPAS courses will be internally located at the Massey University Aviation Centre in Palmerston North – dates as published on the Massey RPAS website. In addition, Massey offers an Auckland –based public courses in July each year, based on the Massey University Albany Campus.

A minimum number of six participants is required to run each RPAS internal (face-face) public course. All courses will be confirmed in writing to all registrants.

Online Course

1)    Theory: Eleven modules – of varying duration. A series of pre-recorded modules covering all topics pertaining to use of RPAS in NZ’s aviation sector All modules will be accessible via the Massey web learning environment STREAM. They can either be completed as a block over two days - or by module on demand delivered on-line over the course of four weeks.  

2)    Duration: Once a candidate has been enrolled on the RPAS course and been advised of their log-in details for the Massey University STREAM site, the course will be available to them for a period of six weeks.  This will allow the candidate to complete both the online course and the online assessment - after which access to the RPAS STREAM site will be cancelled.  A pass mark of 70% is required for a candidate to have been deemed to have passed the assessment.

3)    Practicum assessment – (RPAS Flight examination).

Date/s to be mutually agreed between the candidate and Massey University and scheduled accordingly.  In accordance with Massey University’s Part 141 approval from CAA, Part 2 (Flight Examination) is only available to those candidates who have successfully completed Part 1 of the Massey University RPAS Course and will include the following:                                                                                                  

  • Classroom overview                                                                                                                                                       
  • Field Work                                                                                                                                                                   
  • RPAS Flight Examination

Candidates must be competent in operating their RPA unit in full manual or altitude hold mode without GPS position hold prior to attempting the Massey University RPAS Flight Examination. Evidence of 10 hours minimum RPAS operating experience must be submitted at the time of booking an RPAS practical assessment.

4)    Attendance

Attendance on the online RPAS course is defined as any enrolled candidate who spends one hour or more on the RPAS STREAM site.

Group Courses

The Massey University RPAS team may be deployed to a client’s site for group training outside of the regularly scheduled public courses. A minimum number of 10x participants is required for such courses. In certain circumstances some courses may be tailored to reflect an organisation’s specific requirements.


Part 1: 2-day theory course

Course content/Modules

  • Threats
  • Regulations
  • Visual Navigation Charts (VNC's)
  • Aeronautical Information Publications (AIP's)
  • Notice to Airmen (NOTAM)
  • Airshare
  • Meteorology
  • Basic Radio Wave Propagation
  • Transceivers
  • Procedures and Phraseology
  • Call Signs
  • Making Radio Calls
  • Interpreting Radio Calls
  • Part 102
  • Introduction to Safety Management Systems
  • Operation Planning
  • Visit to Palmerston North Air Traffic Control Tower (for Palmerston North courses only)
  • Practical demonstration of:
    • Pre-flight planning
    • Regulations
    • Operator Conduct

Theory Assessment

After completion of the Part 1 two-day course, all candidates will be enabled to log into the online test delivered via Massey’s online “Stream” learning management system. CAA NZ requires that candidates sitting this assessment achieve a 70% pass mark in this assessment. 

The “Stream” site will remain open to candidates for a period of two weeks after the completion of the two-day course. Upon successful completion of the on-line assessment candidates will receive a Certificate of Completion.

Extreme closeup of RPAS in field

Part 2: Flight Examination

In accordance with Massey University’s Part 141 approval from CAA, Part 2 (Flight Examination) is only available to those candidates who have successfully completed Part 1 of the Massey University RPAS Course.

Day three:

  • classroom overview
  • Field Work
  • RPAS Flight Examination

Candidates must be competent in operating their RPA unit in full manual or altitude hold mode without GPS position hold prior to attempting the Massey University RPAS Flight Examination.

Massey University offers its clients a Multi-Rotor Manual Reversion RPAS Flight Examination.


Rick Watson - RPAS Controller                                                                   

Rick Watson RPAS

Rick’s passion for aviation started at a very young age when his family flew to New Zealand from the UK in the late 1960s.

Rick started learning to fly Helicopters at 19 years of age and then Fixed-Wing aircraft the following year. He  went on to fly a variety of different makes and models of aircraft including Gliders and Gyrocopters.

Since 2014 Rick has been involved in the Light Sport Aircraft movement and gained his Instructor’s rating on both High and Low performance microlight aircraft including the Tecnam P92, P96, P2002, Foxbat A22s and Bantam B22s.

He joined the Massey University School of Aviation in January 2020 where his main focus will be  to instruct and educate operators safely operate theirRPAS devices in the NZ manned airspace environment.

Rick is  a well-known radio announcer having many years expereience behind the microphone with both Classic Hits and more laterly with More Fm at MediaWorks NZ.

Rick is enthusiastic about being able to  both deliver and further develop Massey’s RPAS courses, both on - campus at the Massey University Aviation Centre and to online learners. He is looking forward to leading the RPAS team at Massey University.

Contact us Mon - Fri 8:30am to 4:30pm 0800 MASSEY (+64 6 350 5701) TXT 5222 contact@massey.ac.nz Web chat Staff Alumni News Māori @ Massey