In Australia, Posting Drone Video On YouTube Might Get You Fined

If you own a drone, you have to be responsible about where you fly it -- and that means respecting the existing rules in place from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority. Uploading footage of your less-than-legal drone antics might see you copping a fine from the boys in blue.

Drone image via Shutterstock

EFTM reports that a Queensland man received a $850 fine after uploading footage to YouTube of him operating a DJI Phantom drone that flew within the Townsville restricted control zone, flying above the 400-foot ceiling for civil or hobby use, over populous areas, and within three miles of Townsville Airport.

The man in question then received a phone call from a CASA safety investigator. After confirming he was the owner of the drone and the one flying it, CASA then asked him to remove the videos from YouTube. Not too long afterwards, to add injury to insult, he copped a fine in the mail. The fine came about not because any one of the breaches was serious in itself, but because there were multiple breaches.

So, let this be a reminder to you. If you're a hobbyist or amateur drone pilot, learn the rules around using your fancy flying machine and follow them. And, if you accidentally break any rules, for God's sake, don't post the video to YouTube -- you'll get caught. In case you need a reminder, check the necessary restrictions here:

What Are The Rules About Operating A Drone In Australia?




    Flying it near an airport is pretty irresponsible.

      Posting videos of breaking the Law is fairly stupid. (Ignorance is no excuse)

    When they say "don't fly it over populous areas" what exactly are they talking about? Pretty much everywhere in Australia is "populous" except for the desert. That's one of the side effects of Australia having a population, you know?

    Does it just mean don't fly over people's houses or streets or something? Cause that sort of limits the number of places you could actually fly a drone.

      Pretty sure it's not within 30m of people, houses, cars, roads etc... Looks like I've got some YouTube videos to make private it seems

      That's sort of the point. It's intended to stop people flying where they can hurt others.

      The little CASA safety brochure that was posted here a few days ago specifically give examples of populous areas such as beaches, parks, sporting events or other people's backyards.

      It's ambiguous on purpose but it basically means don't fly it over people and don't be a tool.

        I know that this will make me 'that guy', but I wonder what laws cover taking down a drone hovering over your backyard. (Not talking about using a firearm in a populated area or anything: think giant net launcher or something equally bizarre).

          probably the same laws that govern putting spikes down on bike tracks....

            Does anyone know of any way to implement a plonk-filter when browsing Giz?

              If you're implying my comment is stupid then please leave. The door is that way.

              You don't know me and you clearly didn't bother reading the comments. @vj9c9 and I are having a perfectly reasonable conversation.
              My comment is completely serious (although it's an extreme example). I've elaborated on it below in case you're interested in intelligent discussion instead of abusing people.

                Your comment was in fact, stupid:
                Your bike-track spikes are a man-trap placed on public property.
                Claiming that this potentially fatal crime would be covered under property damage laws is beyond ridiculous.

                Also, may I direct your attention to the existence of time-stamps.

            You think so? A bike track would typically be public land, but I'm not so sure about above your property or how much it matters if someone's property is inside your property (i.e. land).
            A previous giz article specifically addressed airspace ownership - although not in Australia.

              I was more thinking along the lines of destruction of private property.
              You can't go smash someones car windows because they parked in the wrong spot.
              You can't go put spikes or steel cables across walking tracks just because dirt bike riders are going where they shouldn't be.
              You can't burn down your neighbors house because they are growing weed.

              Basically, you can't break the law just because someone else is. It's pretty much vigilantism

              Last edited 23/01/15 4:24 pm

                I agree. When I said 'I wonder what the law is' I really did mean 'I wonder'. If someone parked in my driveway I wouldn't expect to be able to torch the car. Would I be legally allowed to put on wheel-locks though? The question, ultimately, is 'what recourse is there if someone is flying a drone with a camera over my backyard on a regular basis?'.

                  All you can do is complain to authorities.
                  As for the car the answers the same. You can't even have some ones car towed off your property.

                  @g-man It seems you're right. (I found it bizarre that you basically have no recourse, and hunted around, but except in some pretty outside circumstances you are spot on). It seems like in practice what happens is that if someone parks in their front yard, they call the police and the police say to call the council. They call the council and the council says to call the police. The landowner can't have the car towed or in any way immobilise it. The end.
                  (Some more irritated people park the car in and leave it that way for a while, but that's about all anyone can do).

                  Don't get me wrong, I think it is fair that property damage against such a vehicle is fair enough. Not being able to remove the vehicle, though, does strike me as a bit crazy.

                  Edit: miswrote 'recourse' as 'resource'.

                  Last edited 23/01/15 4:56 pm

          Only firearms laws would have significant bearing, if a firearm is used. The owner of a drone/model-aircraft has no authority to be flying over: a built-up area, within 30 m of a structure, at an altitude lower than that from which the model aircraft can glide to safety (open land), or over privately owned (assuming residential) land without permission at an altitude less than 1000 ft (aviation law).. As long as a firearm or other prohibited weapon is not used to take down the "drone" you are well within your rights to destroy their toy, then it is ok. oops what just happened....

          Oh, not meeting any of the legal guidelines above will also mean that the operator of such a toy has no recourse to insurance, and likely no legal recourse either as they have no authority to tresspass in order to recover their property (if that can be proven) of any kind.

          People flying rc aircraft, be smart, stay safe and enjoy the privilege you have in being able to practice this awesome sport/activity.

          IF the "drone" is commercial then the operator needs to ensure that they have dotted every "i" and crossed every "t" legally and ensure that they have adequate insurance and permission, or you have every right to sue their ass for unlawful endangerment of the public and trespass.

        I think you made a typo there mate - when you wrote "it's intended to stop people flying where they can hurt others" you actually meant to write "it's intended to stop the casual user from getting any serious use out of camera drones".

        In other words - you're OK to have a piddly little remote control plane or copter that's nothing more than a 'novelty', but god forbid you actually want to take any interesting footage with anything like the aforementioned DJI Phantom like any muppet in America who can afford one can, without paying a (no doubt) exhorbitant 'professional' drone operator's license fee, and jumping through all the ridiculous hoops I'm sure you have to jump through to get one.

        As nice as it is to have bodies like CASA, 'Fair Trading' and consumer protection laws, as many, many peeps have pointed out on many, many occasions, we live in a ridiculous, ridiculous fekking nanny state, don't we ?

        That being said ... yes, flying it near an airport is where I'd draw the line for obvious reasons. That's the problem really - no one wants to argue with 'common sense' aspects of our laws - but you give our civil servants an inch and they'll take the whole fekking arm (kinda like a vicious 'copter blade accident gone wrong) ...

        Last edited 23/01/15 2:34 pm

          I agree but the distinction between what kind of drone can hurt you and what kind can't is tough.
          In any case as with most laws like this - it's easier to blanket everything and simply only pursue/fine the worst cases rather than write super defined laws that everyone just gets a workaround or loophole for.

          I'm not saying I agree with this stuff (I have a DIY drone myself) but I can at least understand where it's coming from.

          No one is going to fine a kid flying a Parrot via an iPhone in the park because it's not much different than a kite. But a big drone with a heavy camera falling onto a crowd is a pretty big deal. That line isn't black and white.

          Up front: I think the extent to which we live in a 'nanny' state is overstated in general. There is some overreach, there are other things which I think make good sense. It's kind of a matter of where you think the boundaries lay.

          Having said that: larger drones can (and have) caused injury before. Even a small drone falling from a reasonable height could cause injury. I don't think it is overreach to require commercial operators who do want to do flyovers taking footage and so on to be licensed (or at least assessed for competence) and appropriately insured in case their drone falls out of the sky and partially decapitates someone. (Note, in that example it was the guy's own drone).

          There is always a balancing act of managing public safety and individual interests.

          Check out the AMA regulations in the USA. They are pretty much exactly the same as in Australia. In many ways Australia is more progressive regarding personal use of RC aircraft than the USA.

          You just sound sore.

          3nm limitation around airports takes into account all potential glide-slopes being used by aircraft for approach and landings and go-arounds, low altitude ops, training, etc. Often aircraft minimum allowable altitude is 500ft (pilots to verify), on approach (and departure) obviously they must descend, throw in unforseen problems with the aircraft and you may be in a potential crash zone. RC planes and non-ATC controlled RPA's maximum = 400 ft, building in a 100ft separation. Sure it is excessive but it also takes into account runaway toys which, imagine..

          How far out would you prefer to make the limits on operating rc flying things?

          Last edited 23/01/15 5:33 pm

    I am both a pilot and a drone owner. This bloke got what he deserved. It is not hard to enjoy operating a drone while remaining well within the regulations.

    please remove your youtube video... okay... now we'll fine you... okay, video goes back up.

      Yeah good point, is the fine for posting a video, or operating the drone... if its just for operating the drone then its reasonable to repost it.

    I think the video should have remained on Utube, that way the rest of us could see for ourselves exactly what CASA regulations he allegedly broke. Then and only then would I be in a position to state “he got what he deserved.” I can’t, because I didn’t see his video.
    I agree that flying over 400 feet, or within 5 kilometres of an airport is irresponsible, but I have no idea exactly what he did wrong. Lets face it, the 30 meter rule has to have a level of tolerance, (just like speeding), Who can estimate 30 meters accurately without a tape measure. As for speeding, at least a car has a speedometer, and yet there is still some marginal level of tolerance.
    As for flying on a beach,, well! if the drone is a good distance from others and isn't upsetting anyone I personally don't see the problem.
    In my experience the people I have met while flying my drone have all been very friendly interested people and impressed by the technology of my drone. I have never had any problems because I keep a reasonable distance when flying and don’t invade peoples privacy.
    Often it’s the passers by who are drawn to me to see what I'm doing. It has always been a positive experience for me when flying my drone and I met many interesting people.
    Is CASA taking the hard line against hobbyist like me? Does this mean that one day I might also be getting a call from them? Maybe if the phantom video on the beach had been left up I could have gauged exactly what he did wrong and could use that as a yardstick for myself (excuse the pun).
    I can’t help but speculate that CASA is just making examples of people... or maybe i’m just paranoid:-)

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