Car trial iconNew Zealand as a test bed for transport technology trials

The New Zealand Government is working to promote New Zealand as a test bed for new technologies, as provided for in Section 4.14 of the ITS Action Plan.

The benefits of testing new transport products and services in New Zealand are:

  • Our supportive legislation
  • A wide range of climate and road conditions in a relatively small area
  • The ability to test on public roads
  • Our low population density
  • World-class universities and research centres
  • The appeal of the New Zealand lifestyle and culture to knowledge workers.

Please contact the Technology and Transport team at the Ministry of Transport if you need assistance with trialling a transport technology in New Zealand.

Testing Unmanned Aircraft Systems in NZ


Transport technology test facilities in New Zealand

Winter car testing

A private company, Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds(external link), located in the mountains between Wanaka and Queenstown in New Zealand’s South Island, provides facilities for testing vehicles in snow and ice conditions.

Airspace for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles trials

There is designated airspace for the testing of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles at Birdlings Flat, south of Christchurch, and in the northern Wairarapa.

Examples of transport technology trials in New Zealand

The following examples illustrate the variety of transport technology trials carried out in New Zealand:

Intelligent transport systems trial

The Ministry of Transport co-funded a set of trials with AraFlow Ltd(external link) to better understand the potential for ITS technologies in New Zealand. The focus was to trial sensor and communications technologies for heavy vehicles. A description of this trial is available here.

Auckland SMART Approaches trial

Map showing SMART approach flight paths. Click to visit the trial web site

In 2014, Airways NZ(external link) supported the SMART Approaches trial(external link), involving three airlines at Auckland International Airport. This trial demonstrated considerable fuel and emissions reductions can be achieved by using shorter continuous descent approaches. As a result of the trials, one of Auckland’s planned aviation approach paths was refined to reduce the impact of aircraft noise.

Search and Rescue UAS trials 

In 2014 LandSAR(external link) trialled the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems for search and rescue work at Molesworth Station in the South Island. The Coast Guard(external link) has also carried out trials with Christchurch-based firm Global Aerial Platforms(external link).

Air New Zealand biofuels trial

Air New Zealand has become a leader in adopting new technology, being the first airline in the world to purchase the new Boeing B787-9 airliner. In 2008 the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority oversaw a successful trial(external link) use of biofuel produced from African-sourced jatropha (black vomit nut) in a 50:50 blend with Jet A1 fuel in an Air New Zealand Boeing B747 airliner.

The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA)(external link) has further information about the potential use of biofuels for transport.

High-altitude balloon trials

Since 2013 Google has been launching its Project Loon(external link) high-altitude, long-endurance balloons from Tekapo and Alexandra in the South Island of New Zealand. This has involved working with Airways and the Civil Aviation Authority. The objective of Project Loon is to provide internet access to rural and remote regions of the world. So far the results of this innovative project are encouraging.

Space transport and the Awarua Tracking Station

An Auckland-based company, Rocket Lab(external link), is developing rockets to launch small, low-earth-orbit satellites. Rocket Lab has to established a launch facility on the Mahia Peninsula.

New Zealand has been involved in a limited way in space transport trials. With local government support, the European Space Agency used Awarua in Southland as the location for a tracking station to support its Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV)(external link) serving the International Space Station. The European Space Agency chose this location because of its high latitude, low horizons and isolation from sources of radio interference.