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May 12, 2021

Drone use on the increase, but what are the laws?

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Drones are becoming increasingly popular, but do you know the laws?
Drones are becoming increasingly popular, but do you know the laws?

Since the emergence of relatively inexpensive, high quality drones, the buzz of these remote controlled miniature aircraft is increasingly being heard by more and more Northern Rivers residents.

Anyone can buy a quadcopter, UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) or RPA (remotely piloted aircraft), as they are known, for several hundred dollars to many thousands, depending on the size and technology equipped.

But that doesn’t mean it can be flown just anywhere, anytime, at any height, capturing photos and videos.

Does the privacy act apply?

The explosion of drone technology has privacy legislation playing catch-up, now people have the capability of hovering over your backyard, or outside your bedroom window while capturing high-definition video and high resolution photos.

After a close-encounter with a drone over her backyard, Natasha Tiffany felt uncomfortable and posted about it on Facebook page Nimbin Hookups Discussion Board earlier this month.

‘In backyard doing gardening when I hear the buzz of a drone flying over,’ she posted.

‘I’m not sure I like people being able to come into my backyard without invite.’

‘How does everyone else feel about it?’

‘I know they are legal and are great for taking aerial shoots but it’s not a comfortable feeling having them flying around residential backyards.’

The current Privacy Act only applies to organisations with an annual turnover of $3 million or more, so it wouldn’t apply to most recreational RPA owners.

While the Privacy Act might not apply in most recreational scenarios, stalking and harassment or surveillance laws of individual states could deem filming or photographing using a recreational drone illegal.

Currently there is nothing written in law specifically regarding drones and privacy.

Recreational v Commercial

Other laws governing the operation of RPA’s or drones are regulated by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority CASA.

Drones are classified in two classes, recreational and commercial (under or over 2kg weight).

Pilots of commercial drones must get a remote pilots licence through an approved training provider, then an RPA operators certificate, which permits them to earn money flying commercially.

For recreational or fun pilots of drones up to to 2kg, the rules are far less stringent.

It is optional to get a CASA Aviation Reference Number and email a RPA notification form with information about your planned flight.

Piloting a drone

Under the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998, the standard operating conditions for all drones are –
• You must only fly during the day, not at night.
• You must only fly by visual line of sight – close enough to see, maintain orientation and achieve accurate flight and tracking.
• You must fly no higher than 120 metres (400 feet) above ground level.
• You must not fly any closer than 30 metres from other people.
• You must not fly in a prohibited area or in a restricted area without the permission of the responsible authority.
• You must not fly over populous areas, such as beaches, parks and sporting ovals. The risk to life, safety and property depends not only on the density of people and property in an area but also the flying height and the likelihood of injury or damage should something go wrong with the RPA.
• You must not fly within 5.5 kilometres (3 nautical miles) of a controlled aerodrome-one with an operating control tower.
• You must not fly in the area of a public safety operation without the approval of a person in charge of the emergency response. This includes situations such as a car crash or any police, firefighting or search and rescue operations.
• You must only fly one RPA at a time.

CASA have created an app so people can find out where they can fly their drone that can be downloaded https://www.casa.gov.au/droneapp

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  1. People are going to start shooting them down if they become intrusive. Other countries regulate the purchase and use of these things, why are we so slow? Do we have to wait for one to fly into a commerical airliner before action is taken? Looks like it.


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