Hughes PR, Video

Avoid flying into trouble

Hughes’ video production manager Serena Findlay writes…

Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, more commonly referred to as drones, are a wonderful and rapidly evolving technology. When it comes to commercial drone use, the potential of these little flying machines is, quite literally, sky-high. Drones are now helping to shape the future of a diverse many industries by offering unique, faster and more efficient practices than traditional methods.

In late 2016, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) relaxed its regulations for remotely piloted aircraft to allow anyone to fly a drone under 2kg for commercial use, without the need for the formerly mandatory Remote Pilot Licence.

In some ways however, these changes have further muddied the waters for businesses wanting to take advantage of this powerful new technology. While commercial drone flight is now arguably more accessible than ever before, by no means is the use of an unlicensed operator automatically lawful.

CASA’s Standard Operating Conditions which apply for remotely piloted aircraft are broadly common sense: don’t fly the aircraft if you can’t see it; don’t fly at night; stay under 120 metres; don’t fly over populated areas, near emergency operations or too close to other people.

But perhaps the most inhibiting restriction for drone use in Adelaide and source of most confusion is CASA’s restriction on flight within 5.5km of a controlled aerodrome.

Put simply – that area looks like this…

And – more broadly – this.

Screenshots from CASA’s ‘Can I Fly There?’ app.

The great news is that, while unlicensed operators are prohibited from flying in these areas, if your requirement for drone work falls inside these boundaries you can still utilise a licensed operator. Licensed operators can be granted exemptions on any one of CASA’s restrictions (noting a mandatory CASA application fee applies and the approval process can take time).

As well as where, licensed operators also have increased flexibility on when we can fly. Unlicensed operators are required to give advanced notice of 5 days to CASA; making the rescheduling of flights a logistical nightmare (but a relatively likely scenario given drones are particularly vulnerable to the elements). Licensed operators are not required to notify CASA of their intention to fly.

So how can you avoid flying into trouble?

If your aerial activity is not bound by any of CASA’s restrictions and you decide to use an unlicensed operator, always check that they have an Aviation Reference Number. If they can’t provide one, they aren’t able to notify CASA of the flight – as they are required by law to do. Also ask for evidence that they have logged the flight with CASA and that it was not denied.

If your job falls within 5.5km of a controlled aerodrome, or you need exemptions on any of CASA’s other restrictions, always choose a licensed operator.

It’s safe to say that there are a lot of people out there operating drones illegally, many of whom probably don’t even know they are doing so. While, undoubtedly, most of these would be recreational users, companies planning on the use of drones should be savvy in their choice of operator to avoid partaking in any illegal aerial activity.

Other questions or would like to discuss aerial work for your business? Get in touch.



Hughes PR, Public relations

People in PR – back to the future

Over the 25 years I’ve enjoyed since establishing Hughes, many people have asked the secret to survival (and success)?  It’s the people.

Against that background, who do we need in our profession in the future?  In part, it may be a matter of going back to the future.

Someone came to me for career advice recently and they asked the question:  “Do you still hire journalists?”

Interesting question.  Twenty-five years ago, that’s all we hired!  Ten years ago, hardly any – instead we were looking for subject matter experts or “industry professionals.”

My answer last week was a bit more circumspect.  I said that I expected there would always be a place for people with a background in the media.

Why? Because part of our role will be to tell stories.  And who better to assist in that process than story tellers?

But beyond that, journalists have the ability to cut to the chase, get to the heart of a yarn, cut through the crap and find the angle – good or bad.  And the latter skill is as important, if not more important, than the former.

Being able to proactively identify issues; honestly appraise reputational risks; fearlessly advise on addressing those risks and effectively assist in neutralising or managing them to the benefit of an organisation is as important to the end game as promoting the positives.  Otherwise, it’s a matter of two steps forward and at least one step back in the increasingly important “trust race”.

Journalists are also used to working to a deadline – as is the PR industry.  We know there is no news in old news and that – thanks to social media – no news can become global news in seconds. And our profession knows what that can mean in terms of reputational risk or opportunity.

Increasingly, every organisation will require speedy and effective communication protocols and delivery channels to manage their reputations or protect their brands – and PR provides the best resource for doing this.

Just as a matter of interest, there are now more journalists in Australia on so-called the dark side (ie in PR) than there are on the bright side of mainstream journalism.

Having made that point, however, our industry very much also needs to offer a mix of skills.

From a communication generation and delivery perspective – to ensure accuracy, context, strategic perspective, and most of all results, whether it’s in media, social communities, or legislation.

We need people who understand strategy as well as those who can learn it while delivering it.  PR teams made up just of old blokes like me will go backwards but equally, those digital natives who rely on enthusiasm and technology alone are similarly destined for a short stay.

Why? Because as I have said before, unless digital and social platforms are utilised strategically to meet organisational goals, they remain toys – not tools.