(Source: The Australian)
Until now, only recreational users could fly drones without a licence. Their use for any commercial purpose in Australia needed an unmanned operator’s certificate.
This required a business to document what it proposed doing with drones and to provide a series of manuals detailing procedures. Alternatively, firms could pay an approved drone operator to fly on their behalf.
However, Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority said it would relax rules for lightweight drones weighing less than 2kg. Commercial operators soon can fly them without first gaining a certificate or license.
While a 2kg weight limit is restrictive, it gives businesses leeway to fly drones with HD video capability such as the Parrot Bebop (420g) and the China-made DJI Phantom 3 (1280g).
CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said the rule change would happen later this year and follows an assessment by CASA of the risk involved with lightweight drone mishaps.
“It (CASA) was looking at what are the risks of an RPA (remotely piloted aircraft) under 2 kilograms from a safety perspective. The risk was sufficiently low enough to not need the extra layer of regulation.”
The move is the most significant of several preliminary changes to regulations before a full review of commercial and recreational drone use. Mr Gibson said CASA’s unmanned aircraft rules hadn’t been reviewed since their implementation in 2002.
The change should see business use of drones flourish. Real estate firms will be able to shoot overhead shots of homes for sale without engaging outside operators. Tradesmen, architects, professional photographers, journalists and farmers will be able to conduct fly-yourself drone activities lawfully.
But there is a catch. Mr Gibson warned that unlicensed commercial operators will still have to obey the same rules as recreational users. They can’t operate within 30 metres of people not involved in flying the drone, they can’t fly over gatherings of people, fly above 400 feet (122 metres), and the drone must be at least 5 kilometres away from airports. Unlicensed users also have to fly by sight.
“It will offer opportunities for people using small machines but you’re not going to have carte blanche to charge around doing whatever you like,” Mr Gibson said.
Those dissatisfied with these restrictions will still have to use a registered drone operator or seek certification themselves. There are two forms of certification: an operator’s certificate for the business and a controller’s certificate for pilots.
Mr Gibson said the popularity of drones meant there was at least a six month wait for an operator’s certificate. He said CASA had so far issued 220 approvals to commercial bodies wanting to fly drones. Another 100 applications were being processed now.
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