If you intend to fly a drone in Australia, there are regulations you need to be aware of before you set flight. While flying a drone can be an exciting time, it can pose particular risks for public safety. This article explores the current regulations for recreational drone users in Australia.

Drone Regulations in Australia

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) requires the registration of all drones used for a commercial purpose with a weight over 2kg. You will also need to obtain an operator’s certificate to use drones in public airspace.

The use of recreational drones is governed by the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 (Cth). It states that users must fly recreational drones weighing less than 2 kg away from crowds and under an altitude of 121m (400 feet). Users are also prohibited from flying drones in bad weather, in or into clouds, or at night.

Furthermore, you cannot use your recreational drone (weighing less than 2 kg) where:

  • It is used for commercial gain. This includes advertising material and uploading YouTube videos;
  • It is flown within 5.5 km of an airfield or high-security area; and
  • It is flown over a sporting event or busy populated area. CASA advises the use of recreational drones away from sporting areas.

However, the drone regulations stipulate that you can use your recreational drone where:

  • It is flown over private land, as long as the drone does not detract from the landowner’s enjoyment and use of the land; and
  • It is used to drop off packages, so long as no risk is posed to others.

Contrary to popular belief, the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (‘the Privacy Act’) does not apply to the use of drones. The Privacy Act only applies to organisations with an annual turnover of $3 million or more. Rather, surveillance legislations may be more applicable in circumstances where users spy with drones.

Changing Drone Regulations

CASA has announced it will be amending the regulations affecting remotely piloted aircraft on 29 September 2016. These proposed amendments will reduce the cost and legal requirements for recreational drone pilot operations. One key change is the term UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) will not be referred to as RPA (remotely piloted aircraft).

There are a number of conditions imposed on drone pilots, including:

  • Only flying during the day and fly one RPA at a time;
  • Keeping a RPA within visual line-of sight;
  • Not flying a RPA higher than 120 metres (400ft);
  • Keeping a RPA at least 30 metres away from other people;
  • Keeping a RPA at least 5.5km away from airports;
  • Not flying a RPA over any populous areas such as beaches, parks and sporting ovals; and
  • Not flying a RPA without approval over or near an area affecting public safety or where emergency operations are underway (car crash, police operations, search and rescue etc.)

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If you intend on flying drones in Australia, it will be prudent to be aware of the drone regulations in place. If you have any further questions, feel free to get in touch with our qualified lawyers today on 1300 544 755.

Sophie Glover

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