The Airline Pilots' Association says the current rules around drones are inadequate and it aims to highlight the issue at a conference about the unmanned aerial vehicles this weekend.
The association, which represents about 2500 commercial pilots and air traffic controllers, said drones had the potential be a serious hazard.
Its technical director Captain Rob Torenvlied said most planes were designed to handle hitting a bird but not a 25kg machine.
The unpiloted, remote-controlled aerial vehicles are increasingly being used in New Zealand by media organisations and private users.
Currently drones were regulated under model aircraft rules and Mr Torenvlied said that was not good enough.
"Everyone who wants to operate an aeroplane needs to comply with regulations regarding licensing, competency of the pilot, the air-worthiness of the aircraft and we believe that drones should be subject to the same or very similar regulations," he said.
"The unmanned aerial vehicle industry is growing rapidly and New Zealand is struggling to keep up."
Mr Torenvlied said pilots were worried about the slack safety rules around drones and the association was looking for ways to see them integrated safely into the existing aviation system
The drone conference was being run by the Royal Aeronautical Society and being held in Masterton this weekend.