The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has issued 43 fines to drone operators this year, with one man’s fines recently escalating to $7750.
CASA, which overseas commercial and recreational drone regulation, published a Facebook post in late August explaining the NSW drone operator ignored two Aviation Infringement Notice (AIN) fines.
‘A Port Kembla man has been fined $7750 in Wollongong Magistrates Court this month after being found guilty for two breaches of regulations relating to operations of an #RPA (#drone) over a populous area and one breach of flying his drone within 30 metres of a person not directly associated with the operation of the aircraft.
‘The man had been reported to CASA by the NSW Police Force after operating his drone on a number of occasions at night, over a populous area and within 30m of people—which caused significant distress to his neighbours.
‘In response CASA counselled the man and issued him with an Aviation Infringement Notice (AIN) requiring him to pay a fine of $1050 in relation to alleged illegal operations of his drone. When the man refused to pay the AIN, the matter was referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and three charges were brought before the court. The man was fined $2500 per conviction, with total fines plus court costs coming to $7750.’
A CASA spokesperson told Inside Imaging that a member of the public reported the incident, and video footage was provided as evidence to prove the operator broke the rules.
Recreational and sub-2KG commercial drone operators cannot fly higher than 120 metres; must keep the drone 30 metres from people; fly one drone at a time and within a visual line-of-sight; must not fly over a populous area; respect personal privacy; fly at least 5.5 kilometres away from a controlled airport; create a hazard to other aircraft, person or property; and must only fly during the day in clear weather. Read all the rules here.
The spokesperson said the 43 AIN fines issued to drone operators so far this year is roughly the same as in 2018, with 63 AIN fines handed out.
CASA is developing new tracking technology to catch rogue drone operators, as well as building a registration database, so the number of fines may skyrocket unless operators learn to follow the rules. At the moment, it’s difficult for CASA to catch rogue operators, as it requires members of the public or authorities to report the illegal activity, identify the offender, and record evidence.
‘CASA receives many drone complaint referrals each year via our Client Services Centre, our online reporting system and other authorities, such as the police and border force,’ CASA says. ‘Complaints do vary, however most referrals contain information relating to drones operating within 30 metres of people, flying over people and flying within 5.5km of a controlled airport.
‘CASA reviews all complaint referrals and conducts investigations where required. As Australia’s aviation safety regulator, CASA achieves suitable outcomes by various means, such as education, counselling, Aviation Infringements (a fine) and refers matters to the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions.’