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.




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