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Get up to speed with the current
guidelines for drone use, as
provided by CASA’s website.
It is illegal to fly a drone for
money or economic gain
unless you have an Unmanned
issued by the Civil Aviation
Do not fly closer than
30m to vehicles, boats,
buildings or people.
Do not operate within
3nm or 5.5km of an
aerodrome or helicopter
landing site without approval.
Do not fly above 400ft (122m).
Do not fly over any populated
areas such as beaches, other
people’s backyards, heavily
populated parks, or sports
ovals where there is a game
Only operate your RPA during
daylight, in good weather and
in line of sight.
FPV (first person viewing)
flying may be illegal
without an Advance
Amateur Radio Licence.
They can do some damage, cut fingers and things
like that. And you know not to fly them in built-
up areas, always fly them in line of sight and
don’t fly over houses.” CASA safety regs require
no flying closer than 30m to vehicles, boats,
buildings or people, no operating a drone within
5.5km of an aerodrome or helicopter landing
pad, and no flying above 400ft (122m).
Jason is also aware of the privacy aspect –
something not controlled by CASA, rather by local
council bylaws and the Office of the Australian
Information Commissioner. The issues, he says,
are the same as for the use of CCTV technology,
which has been around for a long time.
“Satellites can take pictures of anyone from
outer space,” he says. “None of us have really
got any privacy any more. And, people should
use their common sense. Don’t go within 30m of
people and don’t take pictures of them which you
are going to publicise.”
Gerry Gibbs Camera Warehouse supplies
a pamphlet outlining safety regulations, but staff
baulk at offering privacy or insurance advice. “We
are not qualified to do that,” says Bill O’Donohoe.
But then, even the police admit that the
legal situation covering drones is confusing. “If
property is damaged because of a drone it is
a ‘time, place, circumstance’ thing, and would
depend on if someone laid a complaint and there
would be an issue with exactly where the drone
was and how far away it was from a person,” says
a media liaison officer for the WA Police.
“As for the privacy issue, that is one of the
grey areas. Laws have definitely not caught up
Both the police media and CASA quote the
Privacy Commissioner as the go-to source for
help, should a person feel their privacy has been
invaded. But in 2014, Privacy Commissioner
Timothy Pilgrim wrote to the Federal Government
warning that the Privacy Act did not cover the use
of drones by individuals, nor by business with an
annual turnover of $3 million or less.
However, a federal parliamentary committee,
headed by coalition MP George Christensen, has
made six safety and privacy recommendations to
the Government to simplify things for everybody.
These include a review of laws regulating use
of surveillance devices (including drones), and
a review of laws that regulate police use of
surveillance drones, with a focus on modernising
legislation and making it nationally uniform.
Tom Percy QC, the state president of the
Australian Lawyers Alliance, is one of many
in Australia awaiting the outcome. People who
believe their privacy is being invaded by a drone
flying within 30m of them or their property could
apply to a magistrate for a misconduct restraining
order, he says. That is, if they can establish the
identity of the person operating the drone.
“That is just the same situation as if someone
was throwing rubbish over your fence or filming
your personal activities from a nearby property,”
he says. “Difficulties arise when the perpetrator
of the problem isn’t known.”
While CASA may be in the throes of rewriting
its regulations in order to clarify things for both
commercial and hobbyist operators, Tom agrees
with WA Police that there is a significant gap
in the law, and urges the Federal and State
governments to act swiftly on it.
“It is incumbent on the various legislative bodies
around the country to legislate on these grey areas
sooner rather than later,” he says. “People need
to know things like whether they are entitled to
take possession of a drone that’s bothering them.
At this stage, given the comparative dearth of
legislative provisions in the area, I couldn’t give
you a definitive answer.” S
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