In May of last year CASA released an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making) to the wider UAV industry in Australia. Proposal #4 looks to wave the current requirement for commercial operation of a UAV under the 2kg class. At first glance you would think that this opens up the industry to every Tom, Dick and Harry. However, that is not the case.
Drone licensing is being developed by Governments around the world in response to the rapid increase of their use by consumers and commercial operators. In many cases this has been in reaction to what is happening in their skies and not in anticipation of how the drones could be used to enhance productivity. The technology is moving at such a pace that regulatory bodies have been caught off guard. Small UAV’s are being bundled into “model aircraft” regulations so as to at least be seen as having some form of governance. The problem with this is, current UAV’s that you can buy for under $1000 have flight controllers or “smarts” on board that allow them to do things that unless understood become dangerous. Add to this the fact that just about anyone can operate them and you have a potential for incident never before seen.
The deregulation of the under 2kg class is simply a way to say “we can’t keep up in that space”. As a commercial uav operator this is deeply concerning. These new proposed rules will mean that someone who has not undergone the training in aviation safety, nor clocked the hours on a UAV is able to fly in areas that we (commercial operators) need to seek permission and are bound by strict rules and guidelines.
There is one common sense fail safe at least that looks like it will keep most ‘want to be’ operators from not seeking uav licensing. Insurance. I’ve spoken to a number of key aviation insurance companies here in Australia and the conversations are all the same. No insurance company is going to insure an unlicensed operator. The risks are just too large to be underwritten. The unknowns just too unknown. So insurance will be the first layer of resistance against small uav’s under 2kg proliferating the commercial applications.
The second is the camera the smaller UAV’S carry. Yes i know the new Phantom 3 released this week will shoot in 4k. But that is a very different 4k to what you get when shooting with a Panasonic GH4 Lumix on an S900. This restriction will dissolve over time. Especially with the advancement in camera technology. But right here right now a GoPro Vs a DSLR camera is chalk and cheese. And professionals know this.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com