The Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s (CASA) proposed compulsory drone registration scheme for recreational and commercial operators has been delayed until the end of the year.
The scheme, due to start this month, will roll out in phases later this year, with recreational operators using a 250+ gram drone to be followed by sub-2KG commercial operators.
Registration will cost around $20 per year for recreational users and between $100 and $160 for commercial operators. Along with completing an online training and safety course, operators will supply serial numbers to complete registration.
The fees are partly to re-balance CASA’s funding, as the drone sector is currently sucking up financial resources sourced from other sectors such as the aviation fuel levy and government tax payer revenue.
CASA will not only tighten the rules through registration, but also increase efforts to enforce them. The aviation authority will create a national database of drones, and has technology that can detect a signal between the drone and controller. The tech was used during Sydney’s Vivid festival, and may appear at other major events.
‘In some instances this technology can show the location of both the drone and the controller, and in some cases the serial number of the drone as well,’ said CASA communications manager, Peter Gibson, to 7News.
Drone operators caught flying illegally will cop a fine of around $1000, but none have been issued yet.
Catching rogue operators in the act has been highlighted as a weakness in CASA’s regulatory power, as there are no authorities actively monitoring operators. The authority mainly relies on public complaints and reports.
The new rules are a slightly heavier take on the existing ‘light touch’ regulation, which was amended in 2016. Commercial operators using a sub-2KG drone currently do not need a licence, but must provide CASA flight plans. All commercial operators were previously required to obtain a Remote Operators Certificate (ReOC), which is a long and expensive process but worthwhile for serious commercial operators. The ReOC is still required for operators with gear weighing over 2KG.
After CASA ‘cut the red tape‘ in 2016, the booming consumer drone industry was heavily scrutinised for the dangers posed by, and general nuisance of, the new technology. A Senate Commission Inquiry into Drone Safety attempted to establish what should be done, and CASA was pressured to do something – despite conducting years of research to establish the 2016 rules.
The bureaucratic solution – weave in a little red tape and slap on fees.
Chinese drone manufacturer and market leader, DJI, meanwhile tackled the concerns globally, by seriously ramping up the safety features in its products. In Australia and elsewhere it launched a geofencing system, which prevents drones from entering restricted airspace.
From next year DJI drones will have ADS-B (‘Automatic dependent surveillance—broadcast’) technology, The Australian reports, which receives satellite signals from planes and helicopters. Operators are warned if they are in the aircraft’s flight path. The technology can establish an aircraft’s location from kilometres away, long before it will be seen or heard.
DJI drones also have remote identification technology, which means they have an electronic ‘licence plate’.