Drama-free drone zone

Monthly Chronicle - - Your Family -

It’s the hol­i­days, peo­ple are out and about - and some fly­ing en­thu­si­asts will have re­ceived drones for pre­sents last month. But what are the rules sur­round­ing these new in­hab­i­tants of our skies?

If you want to fly your drone for fun, you don't need per­mis­sion from the Civil Avi­a­tion Safety Au­thor­ity (CASA), pro­vided you fol­low the Au­thor­ity's sim­ple safety rules.

You must only fly your drone within your vis­ual line of sight. That means be­ing able to see the drone with your own eyes, rather than with the help of binoc­u­lars, tele­scope or other de­vice.

You can only fly in vis­ual me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions, which gen­er­ally means no night flights, and where you can't see the drone dur­ing dark and stormy weather.

In most Aus­tralian ci­ties, you can only fly your drone up to a max­i­mum al­ti­tude of 120 me­tres. Any higher and you need CASA ap­proval. You can only tell height flown on the more ex­pen­sive drones thanks to their built-in teleme­try via a dis­play on the hand­set. Less ex­pen­sive ones (up to $300) only have a fly­ing height range of 100m lim­i­ta­tion any­way, so it is self lim­it­ing thanks to the re­mote con­trol trans­mit­ter.

Once in the air, you must keep your drone at least 30 me­tres from any­one not di­rectly as­so­ci­ated with its op­er­a­tion.

The drone must not be flown over pop­u­lated ar­eas, such as those that are suf­fi­ciently crowded that the drone would pose an un­rea­son­able risk to life, safety or property. This in­cludes crowded beaches, parks or sports ovals where a game is in progress.

There is a gen­eral pro­hi­bi­tion on fly­ing a drone in a way that cre­ates a haz­ard to another air­craft, per­son or property. A "haz­ard" may be in­ter­preted fairly broadly.

Recre­ational drone users are also ad­vised to re­spect per­sonal pri­vacy by not record­ing or tak­ing pho­tos of peo­ple with­out their con­sent.

A note of cau­tion: While pri­vacy con­cerns are not within CASA's au­thor­ity, op­er­a­tors may find them­selves in breach of state and ter­ri­tory pri­vacy or tres­pass laws, de­pend­ing on how and where the drone is flown, and whether au­dio, video or pho­to­graphic footage is recorded.

As a gen­eral rule, drones can­not be flown for money or eco­nomic re­ward with­out a spe­cific li­cence. There are, how­ever, two new in­stances where such a cer­tifi­cate is not re­quired: for com­mer­cial-like op­er­a­tions over your own land, and for com­mer­cial flights un­der two kilome­tres with very small drones, pro­vided that the pi­lot no­ti­fies CASA at least five busi­ness days be­fore­hand, and ad­heres to all the ex­ist­ing rules for recre­ational drone use.

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