Today the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester will announce a Federal Government led safety review into drone usage rules, which the minister describes as “general”, aiming to “enable growth and innovation in drone usage” and will be overseen by CASA.
The review comes following a decision by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to ease licence regulations on unmanned drones as of 29 September, which removed the requirement for commercial operators of lightweight drones to hold a licence, in the name of “cutting red tape”.
The change is regulations mean you don’t need a license to operate a drone under two kilograms, and farmers can fly drones weighing up to 25kg over their own properties without a commercial licence.
These changes will be a focus of the review, as the Australian Federation of Air Pilots has issued a warning relaxing the current regulations could end with unlicensed drone operators flying at heights of up to 4000 feet, which presents a collision risk with other aircraft.
Since August here have been “several” drone incidents in Sydney’s airspace, Airservices Australia has confirmed, one involving a large drone within 100 metres of a commercial aircraft. The runway was shutdown for an hour as a result.
The Minister defended the recent relaxation of the rules, stating they place strict requirements on how and where drones can be operated, and were formulated in consultation with industry.
“Under the new rules commercial operators are still required to register with CASA and to notify CASA where they intend to operate. Heavy penalties apply to those who break the rules and serious breaches may be referred for criminal prosecution,” he said. “The Australian government is committed to regulations that promote the safety of people, property, and drone operators.”
A spokesperson for the Federal Government said the changes didn’t affect rules that stop drones being used within 5.5 kilometres of airports. There will still be a fine in place for this of up to $9000.