As drone technology continues to improve with time, the ways in which drones can be utilised for commercial purposes is also expanding. But as businesses begin to experiment with using drones to enhance their business, they must ensure that they adhere to the strict laws governing drone flights in Australia.
The use of drones in Australia is regulated by the Commonwealth Civil Aviation Authority (“CASA”) which sets guidelines, has the power to issue infringement notices and can recommend investigations by the Department of Public Prosecutions into criminal sanctions for the misuse of drones.
Commercial use of a drone is any use of a drone which is done for hire or reward. What the law requires will depend on the type of drone you intend to fly.
Drones under 2kgs
Drones under 2kgs can be flown by pilots without a licence as long as they comply with the standard operating conditions set out by CASA.
The first thing that must be done is to notify CASA at least 5 days prior to your first commercial flight. Your notification will be valid for a period of 2 years after which you will need to notify them again.
The rules that must be followed during flight include:
– You must only fly during the daylight and keep your drone within your visual line of sight rather than through binoculars or a screen;
– You must not fly higher than 120 metres;
– Your drone must at all times remain 30 metres away from other people including at parks, beaches and sporting events;
– You must keep your drone at least 5.5km away from airports;
– You must not operate near emergency situations including bushfires and police operations as this may interfere with the operations of emergency services.
– You must only fly one drone at any given time.
There may be specific rules relating to drones for particular national parks, council areas and on private property, and you should ensure you are familiar with the operating rules of landowners prior to flight.
Drones over 2kgs
Pilots of commercial drones over 2kgs require a remote pilot licence from CASA. This licence will enable an individual to pilot drones for a licenced operator who will also need to hold an Operator’s Certificate. Remote pilot licence training is offered through a number of private training providers who conduct training in both theory and practical matters related to drone flight.
If you fly a drone under 2kgs you are still able to obtain a remote pilot licence from CASA and having such a licence does have its advantages which include being able to apply for approval to operate outside the standard operating rules, for example operating up to 15 metres from people, gaining approval for night time flights and flying beyond the visual line of sight.