Love them or hate them, drones are here to stay. With the number of drones exponentially increasing, they are a popular item on Christmas wish lists. There are however concerns for safety and privacy and depending on whether you fly a drone commercially or recreationally can dictate where, what and how you fly.
In the US, you need to register any drone before they are used. This is not the case here in Australia. You can go down the shop, pick one up and be flying that day. There is no license required. There are however a few rules that need to be abided by
- You aren’t allowed to fly higher than 400ft (121m)
- You CAN’T fly your drone closer than 30m from people, unless that person is helping control or navigate the drone. This means horizontal distance. For eg, you can’t fly directly above people no matter how high you are flying, in case there is an incident that causes the drone to fall from the sky.
- You CAN’T fly over roads with live traffic
- You must not operate your drone in a way that creates a hazard to another aircraft, person, or property
- Can’t fly near emergency situations or search and rescue operations such as fires, car accidents or police operations
- You can only fly one drone at a time
- For drones that weigh more than 100g, you can’t fly within 5.5km of a controlled aerodrome. This means you can’t fly near an airport with a control tower which is usually all the major airports. You CAN fly within 5.5km of a non controlled aerodrome or helicopter landing site (HLS) if there is no manned aircraft flying there at the time.
- You must ONLY fly in the day time
- You CAN’T fly within 300m of marine mammals such as whales and dolphins
- You MUST keep the drone in line of sight at all times. (Approx 300-400m for a Phantom drone depending on your eye sight).
- You can’t operate the navigation of the drone using goggles or another monitor. Must be using your own eyes at all times.
- You must not operate your drone in prohibited or restricted areas. This is perhaps the rule which people are most vague on. Areas you can’t fly are listed below. A great app to use for this Air Map or the one made by CASA Can i Fly There
- National Parks
- Sydney Harbour
- Many councils restrict drones without a permit so you need to check first
The rules that govern professional operators are essentially the same as recreational, although there are two different types of
operator classes. Ones who have a license and those who do not. Commercial operators without a license are not allowed to operate a drone (to make money) that is over 2kg.
Those operators who do have a license are able to apply for exemptions with CASA to fly in restricted areas. They can also fly at night and within 15m of people (if they have them sign waivers). Many council permits will only be given to licensed operators with public liability insurance.
There are no hard and fast rules regarding privacy issues currently and it’s all a bit unclear. There has been no case to date in which an individual has been charged with breaching privacy with use of a drone.
Currently, flying a drone over private property isn’t illegal under CASA rules, nor is filming someone from it.