Flying high: CASA toughens drone rules, increases fines

New laws: The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has introduced new rules governing the use of drones, particularly around airports. Photo: file
New laws: The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has introduced new rules governing the use of drones, particularly around airports. Photo: file

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The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has toughened safety rules governing the flying of drones, particularly around airports.

CASA says the stronger and clearer safety rules include a fine of up to $10,500 for breaking the newly beefed up safety measures.

The aviation authority confirmed that there have been at least two separate instances where drone operators have contravened existing safety rules around the Port Macquarie airport precinct.

The new rules will better protect people and aircraft from drones and focus on the operation of recreational drones, CASA’s Director of Aviation Safety, Shane Carmody, said.

"The drone safety rules have been tightened in response to community concerns about the safety of drones and the rapid growth in drone numbers," he said.

"The new requirements are set out in an interim formal direction that will apply until a full review of the drone regulations is completed.

"Recreational drones must now never be flown within 5.5 kilometres of any controlled aerodrome – which are the major aerodromes in capital cities and some regional centres.

"In addition, recreational drones must not be flown within 5.5 kilometres of non-controlled aerodromes or helicopter landing sites if it is clear aircraft are operating there."

The drone safety rules have been tightened in response to community concerns about the safety of drones and the rapid growth in drone numbers.

Shane Carmody

Mr Carmody said recreational drones must be flown below 400 feet at all times, kept more than 30 metres from people who are not involved in controlling the drone and only one drone can be flown at a time.

All drones – recreational and non-recreational – must now be kept away from areas where fire, police or other emergency operations are underway unless there is approval from the person in charge of the emergency operation.

Existing rules prohibiting drones flying over and above crowds and groups of people and only allowing flights during the day and within visual line of sight still apply.  Drones must never be flown in a way that creates a hazard to people, property or aircraft.

Mr Carmody said the new drone rules still allow plenty of opportunities for people to fly drones for fun.

“We certainly don’t want to ban recreational drones but we do have to make sure public safety is properly protected,” he said.

“CASA identified some areas in the drone rules that needed strengthening and clarifying to better manage the risks associated with flying drones.

“The changes make the safety requirements clearer for people flying drones and will make the rules easier to enforce.”

Get more information on the drone safety rules at CASA’s new drone website.