Drones over a certain weight should have to be registered and large drones should operate under the same rules as other aircraft, the New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association says.
Judge Gary MacAskill found Canterbury man Simon Roy Reeve, 38, guilty for the way he operated a drone at a forest fire in January last year.
Reeve used the drone to film the fire at Pines Beach near Christchurch.
The judge said it was proved Reeve caused danger to a pilot and his helicopter and it was possible the helicopter would collide with the drone.
The association's senior technical officer Dave Reynolds said RPAs or drones can pose a significant risk to conventionally piloted aircraft, crew and passengers.
Operators of these devices, no matter how small, need to fully understand the rules and their responsibilities, he said.
Reeve was found guilty of all three charges laid by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) - one of causing unnecessary endangerment and two of flying the drone in a controlled airspace without permission.
In his decision delivered in the Christchurch District Court, the judge said the defendant had no reason for creating the danger beyond videoing the fire, and a helicopter being used to fight it, for his own personal interest and to possibly sell it to news media.
He said neither reason provided any necessity for causing such a danger.
Reeve told the court that although the drone flew around the smoke up to 1700 feet away, he never lost sight of it and it was never near the helicopter.
At a judge alone trial last month, Reeve said he had read the disclaimer document which came with the drone and had a good understanding of aviation laws.
CAA director Graeme Harris said the outcome created awareness of new drone rules that came into effect last August.
He will be sentenced in July, when he could face maximum penalties of up to 12 months in prison or a fine of up to $10,000.