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Drone Regulations in Australia

Drone Regulations in Australia

 The primary body that regulates drone use is the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (‘CASA’), which is primarily focused on the safety aspect of flying drones, or ‘unmanned aircraft’, in both controlled and uncontrolled airspace. The principle regulation that covers drone usage is the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 (Cth), and in particular Part 101 which deals with ‘unmanned aircraft and rockets’.

There may be other local council laws and regulations that affect how you operate your drone, which you should also ensure that you aware of how they may regulate drone use.

Other federal laws such as the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) apply to how you use your drone, including using your drone for surveillance purposes, though these usually apply indirectly and are yet to include specific provisions on drone usage.

General Rules for Operating Drones in Australia

There are different regulations that may apply to you, depending on whether you are flying for recreational purposes or for commercial purposes. If you intend to use your drone for economic gain (and outside of the ‘excluded category’), you will need to seek out an applicable licence, such as a remote pilot licence (RePL). For more information on RePL and commercial drone requirements, you should visit the CASA website here.

Excluded Category

If you are flying for commercial purposes and your drone is under 2kg and you don’t have an applicable licence, you may still fly in the excluded category.

However, there are some important rules to keep in mind if you intend to operate your drone in the excluded category:

  • Your drone must be less than 2kg in weight;
  • You must still apply for an aviation reference number;
  • You must notify CASA before you fly;
  • You must fly within the Standard Operating Conditions.

What are the standard operating conditions?

 These conditions apply to drone users who want to fly commercially in the excluded category. These conditions are provided on the CASA website:

  • You must not fly your drone higher than 120m;
  • You must not fly your drone over or near an area affecting public safety or where emergency operations are underway;
  • You must not fly your drone within 30 metres of another person;
  • You must only fly one drone at a time;
  • You must not fly your drone within 5.5 km of a controlled aerodrome;
  • You may fly within 5.5 km of an uncontrolled aerodrome if there are no manned aircraft operating in the area;
  • You must only fly during the day and keep your drone within visual line-of sight (i.e. in view from the naked eye);
  • You must not fly your drone over the top of people, including at festivals and crowded beaches;
  • You must not use your drone in a way that can create a hazard to aircrafts, people or property;
  • You must not operate your drone in a prohibited area.

Flying for Recreational Purposes

 If you are flying your drone for recreational purposes, you don’t need any licences, but you still need to follow the standard operating conditions listed above.

Take-away points

  • Ensure that you are aware of the laws and regulations that apply to your drone use;
  • If your drone is heavier than 2kg, you will need a licence to operate it;
  • Always research where you are going to fly to ensure that it is not in a prohibited area.
  • Ensure that you are aware of the laws and regulations that apply to your drone use. 

Sam Gilbert, IP and Technology Consultant, B.A., LL.B  University of Technology, Sydney

 If you would like to know more about this article or drone laws in general, please do not hesitate to get in contact with the team at W3IP Law on 1300 776 614 or 0451 951 528.
Disclaimer. The material in this post represents general information only and should not be taken to be legal advice.

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