Drone regulation relaxed, but restrictions remain

Drone regulation relaxed, but restrictions remain

Journalists using small-sized drones will no longer need to hold a remote pilots licence or certificate as part of a raft of regulatory changes to take effect from September 29.

The Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s move to cut drone-related red tape will make it easier for publishers to use unmanned aircraft technology, however a number of mandatory operation conditions will restrict how broadly drones can be used for news gathering.

The changes apply to commercial operators of a newly created category of “very small” drones, those which weigh under two kilograms.

Under the relaxed regulations, a publisher will need to initially notify CASA about its intention to use drones, what craft it will be using and areas it plans to operate in, but will not need to notify on a flight-by-flight basis.

Publishers are also unable to operate drones more than 5.5 kilometres from controlled aerodromes. This significantly limits the use of drones in major cities

Drones are also unable to be used near emergency situations or above a height of 120 metres. The craft also need to be kept more than 30 metres away from people including during launch, which provides challenges to their use in breaking news situations.

CASA’s director of aviation safety, Mark Skidmore, said the changes to the remotely piloted aircraft regulations maintained appropriate safety standards while cutting red tape.

“The amended regulations recognise the different safety risks posed by different types of remotely piloted aircraft,” he said.

“People intending to utilise the new very small category of commercial operations should understand this can only be done if the standard operating conditions are strictly followed and CASA is notified.

“Penalties can apply if these conditions are not met.”

The changes were initially expected to be introduced before June last year.

CASA is currently three quarters the way through a process of reviewing all aviation rules in Australia.

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