The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), which oversees drone regulation, will introduce a national registration scheme for recreational drone operators from mid-2019.
Update 28/3/2019: CASA has flagged that from July a mandatory ‘flyer’s licence’ and registration for all recreational and commercial operators using a drone weighing more than 250 grams. CASA will charge an annual fee for drone registration, between $100 and $160 for commercial operators and $20 for recreational users.
Here’s a fun cartoon that explains the new drone rules:
Rules are slightly different for commercial and recreational operators. The new recreational rules apply to owners of a system weighing over 250 grams.
‘All new and existing drones need to be registered using an online process,’ a CASA spokesperson told the Western Advocate newspaper. ‘As part of that, drone owners will need to do an online course, mainly look at a video, and successfully answer some safety questions. This is to ensure they have looked at and understand the rules.’
The online course covers flying rules, flying during emergency operations, around people, airport safety rules, and safety and privacy.
CASA is also rolling out new mobile technology that can identify the serial number of a drone flying in restricted airspace, and locate its operator.
‘We’ll have equipment that allows us to see drones in flight, identify weather control on it, where the drones are, as well as read serial numbers of individual drones,’ the spokesperson said. ‘We’ll use it catch people right there and issue penalties, initially at major airports, then at…hot spots like the Sydney Harbour.’
The existing rules for both commercial and recreational operators already prohibit the use of drones around airports, emergency operation zones, above populated areas, and other areas.
But pressure has been mounting from some concerned politicians to tighten things further. A Senate Inquiry into drone safety tabled a report to the federal government in July 2018, calling for much stricter drone regulation.
While the government hasn’t provided a response to the report, recent local and international incidents pushed CASA to announce the changes.
The most recent local incident happened in Tasmania on Christmas Day. A drone was flying near a bushfire on Bruny Island, grounding fire-fighting helicopters.
In Britain a high-profile incident at Gatwick Airport grounded flights for more than a day after drones were sighted near the runway, affecting around 1000 flights and 140,000 passengers. Just this week a drone was spotted near London’s Heathrow airport, creating a small disturbance which now has British military working with police to investigate the issue.
There’s major concerns that a drone could cause a catastrophic accident with a passenger airplane, be used for criminal and terrorist activities, and more generally be a nuisance to society. People don’t like drones buzzing around.
CASA executive director, Shane Carmody, says the number of drone-related incidents have levelled off despite their sustained popularity, but he didn’t speculate as to why things have cooled down.
CASA ‘cut the red tape‘ for commercial drone operators in 2016, after its previous laws became outdated.
There’s been significant growth among recreational operators, who are more likely to break the rules. It’s rogue recreational operators the new rules will target.
DJI, the undisputed drone market leader, began talks with CASA about rolling out a geo-fencing system in October 2017.