Australian drone regulations are developing rapidly, as a newly published policy statement on emerging aviation technologies outlines. For more on international drone regulations, see our recent updates on regulations in Canada and Latin America.
Drones Looking Up, Down Under!
By: Dawn M.K. Zoldi
Hot off the presses, on May 6, 2021, Australia’s’ Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (DITRDC) issued a National Emerging Aviation Technologies (NEAT) Policy Statement. The DITRDC, working with state, territory and local governments, using a whole-of-goverment approach, will develop:
- A Drone Rule Management System (DRMS) to coordinate and manage operating rules for drones from different agencies across Commonwealth, state, territory and local governments. This will include operating boundaries or rules related to security, noise, privacy, environmental impacts and cultural sites.
- Coordinated enforcement schemes to enable state and territory law enforcement authorities to manage minor breaches of rules and regulations related to drone operations.
- A National Drone Detection Network (NDDN) consisting of scalable and modular infrastructure to facilitate the detection of drones to protect assets, activities and events in the air and on the ground. The system will consist of a modular and scalable network of drone detection sensors, linked to a central database, which can filter and provide appropriate data to a wide range of users.
- A NEAT infrastructure planning framework consisting of clear principles and processes to ensure effective and efficient coordination of planning decisions related to construction and operation of electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOL) and drone take-off, delivery and landing sites.
The NEAT Policy Statement also addresses unmanned traffic management and integration of drones and eVTOL aircraft into Flight Information Management systems, as well as regulatory modernization and industry partnerships. Timelines for various NEAT initiatives span from 2021 through 2024.
Although regulatory work remains to be done, in the meantime, drones are flying all over the country. With its wide open spaces and specially created and one-of-a-kind Remote Australian Airspace, drone and eVTOL companies have been flocking to Australia, according to Jackie Dujmovic, CEO of Hover UAV and 2018 Woman to Watch award recipient (conservation).
Dujmovic initially tied her drone company’s model to maritime use cases. Hover first created a shark alarm and related concept of operations to track sharks and save lives in Australia. Not only do the drones help spot sharks, they also locate distressed swimmers and, in both cases, alert the lifeguards. Australian drone regulations enable these and many other use cases, especially in the beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) realm.
The Current State of Australian Drone Regulations
Australia (AUS) follows the Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems (JARUS) Specific Operation Risk Assessment (SORA) model, with its own spin. The Aussies have three categories of drone approvals: recreational, excluded operations and remote operators certificate (ReOC).
The excluded operations category is more akin to Part 107 in the United States (U.S.). Excluded ops are for less than 2kg (4.4 lbs) drones or up to 25kg (55 lbs) if flown on one’s own land. AUS’ regulator, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), requires both basic training, accreditation, record-keeping and a newly levied $40 registration fee. Excluded operators must abide by several standard operating conditions, which includes no flights: within 30 meters of people, at night, in fog/rain, over people or beyond-visual line of sight. Common commercial use cases in this category include real estate photography, farming, mining and the surf life-sight operations described above.
The ReOC provides the primary means for commercial drone flights. This more robust process requires companies to create an operations manual, maintain records and to assign a chief remote pilot and a maintenance controller for drone ops. With a ReOC, companies can work outside of standard conditions, such as engaging in BVLOS and night ops or using autonomous drones, with additional measures and bolstering one’s ops manual procedures.
AUS has been conducting BVLOS flights, including for drone deliveries. Dujmovic assists clients in obtaining BVLOS approvals in three ways: (1) eVLOS or extended VLOS using visual observers (2) using CASA’s 5 “Standard Scenarios,” pre-approved use cases or (3) using the full SORA for operations that do not fall within the Standard Scenarios. For more from Dujmovic on AUS drone regs see here.
Hover UAV established a BVLOS Hub to help companies work through these required approvals, write ops manuals, and also provide specialized BVLOS training. Hover also established a Remote Ops Center (ROC) to facilitate drone-in-a-box (DIB) solutions in far-reaching locations.
For additional information on AUS drone regs, Dujmovic recommends you check out:
- Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority – https://www.casa.gov.au/drones
- Australian Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (DITRDC) National Emerging Aviation Technologies Policy Statement: infrastructure.gov.au/aviation/technology/files/national-emerging-aviation-technologies-policy-statement.pdf
- Hover UAV – https://www.hoveruav.com.au/
Things truly are looking up Down Under!
Dawn M.K. Zoldi (Colonel, USAF, Retired) is a licensed attorney with 28 years of combined active duty military and federal civil service to the Department of the Air Force. She is an intIernationally recognized expert on unmanned aircraft system law and policy, a columnist for several magazines,recipient of the Woman to Watch in UAS (Leadership) Award 2019, President and CEO of UAS Colorado and the CEO of P3 Tech Consulting LLC. For more information, visit her website at: https://www.p3techconsulting.com.