Ask LH: Are Drones Being Banned In Australia?

Ask LH: Are Drones Being Banned In Australia?

Dear Lifehacker, I’ve been hearing reports that the Australian government is all set to ban drones at the hobbyist level. Is there any truth to this? If they are banned, what happens to the drones I currently own? Thanks, Earth Aviator

Dear EA,

In September last year, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority relaxed rules to make it easier to fly drones in Australia. The new laws allow people to fly commercial drones weighing up to 2kg without the need for a licence.

In part, the changes were introduced due to the significant challenges of regulating something that is so easy for civilians to buy and use. However, plenty of councils aren’t happy about the changes and a safety review is set to take place sometime this year.

In addition to concerns about accidental injury and privacy breaches, there are also fears drones could be used in some form of terrorist attack. Examples proffered by lobbyists include delivering a bomb to a public place or purposely colliding with a commercial aeroplane.

Last month, members of the Australian senate stepped up their attack during a drone safety hearing. One Coalition member even called for a blanket ban on drone sales until the aforementioned safety review has been completed.

For its part, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority insists that the existing rules are adequate. Nevertheless, some councils and local government departments have introduced by-laws to further restrict where drones can be flown.

For now, it’s still legal to fly the drones you own provided they weigh no more than 2kg and you follow the existing rules. There’s no telling what will happen once the safety review has been digested, however.

The Australian government tends to move pretty swiftly when it comes to potentially dangerous hobbies – just look at what happened to airsoft guns and so-called hoverboards. You can find out more about the recent senate stoush in the video below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • Someone choked on a fidget spinner, people are calling for them to be banned too. People are stupid.

  • As I understood it, the general gist of the rules as they stand is that you aren’t really going to be in a position to cause trouble that you couldn’t cause some other way.

    Most (all?) drones operate on a line of sight rule with the controller, and they don’t actually have a huge reception range, so flying them to 1000m and annoying planes just isn’t going to happen.

    For most, the existing 122m mark (or 400 ft – I expect a lot was copied from the US rules) is also something that’s going to be hard to break. At that distance, they are going to be hard to control in a generous way, so unless you actively go out of your way to circumvent that, its a naturally enforcing condition.

    You CAN, by syncing a GoPro or similar, but its a lot of effort. End of the day, if you want to use them for evil, there are easier ways to do it.

    So far I haven’t heard of any stories about any catasrophes, so I expect the safety review later this year will leave things as they are. Then recommend reviewing them every 5 years. They’re actually quite a practical compromise.

    If you’re spending the thousands necessary to be capable of breaking the existing rules, then its a different story, but if you have that level of interest, you’re going to be wanting to protect your investment.

    • There have been a number of near misses at major airports around the world. Airline pilots on descent reporting drones coming within a few metres of the plane.

      Imagine what would happen to a commercial jet plane descending on finals to get a drone in one of its engines. Even if the engine didn’t explode, it would almost certainly fail, and for a pilot to lose an engine on finals could be catastrophic.

    • It’s easy for the average punter to buy a drone that will cause significant issues for civil aviation, just requires the payment money; usually over $1K. Some these drones will operate a great deal beyond VLOS and can ascend to great heights. The internet abounds with tales of Phantoms ascending to great heights.

      Recently there was an incident reported in the Sydney Morning Herald where some clown had flown his drone somewhere around the bridge and hit the bridge superstructure and came down in the traffic. There is dashcam footage of the drone landing on the roadway. The camera and gimbal were extracted from the motor of the car by a mechanic. I haven’t heard the outcome of the investigation yet.

      The point being that there are a lot of cowboys out there now with drones that do have the capacity to inconveniece and or injure the public.

  • From a safety point of view, they should make the sale of drones, a lot harder for an individual that does not possess a license. Furthermore, restricting the sales of drones to certified operators only, should reduce the number of incidents and increase the safety margin. Since the operator will have received formal training and understands all the air regulations and safety.

    I’ve been in the R/C hobby for years and I am soon to be CASA RePL certified. In the years, that I’ve been in the hobby, there has never been a single safety incident concerting a recreational RC model.

    • So a license for multirotor RC but not for the traditional RC aircraft is ok? No I don’t think so. I am not involved in it but their is a massive rift between the purist RC clubs and the various multirotor groups. From my point of view looking at it from the outside the old guard traditionalists hate anything they don’t know or fly. They cant accept that there is a new sport flying aircraft that is overtaking their ‘control’ of the hobby. I’m not talking about the DJI sweaty masses here but the serious multirotor racing community.

      As for this ban it is nothing but bluster on a perceived risk of the day. It is such a non-issue makes me wonder if someone in the senate is a member of one of the old aero clubs.

  • I’m usually against things being banned and pretty keen on a drone myself (eying the new DJI Spark)……. but then, a neighbour flies a drone over my property, which annoys the hell out of my wife. Bother me too to be honest.

    I don’t think I would complain much if they were banned or restricted to commercial use only.

  • Licencing drone pilots is the simplest solution to make sure drones are used safely.

  • Many complaints are never published, those related to drones flying over backyard swimming pools in summer in Queensland.
    Using a toy to spy on people is illegal but trying to convince the brainless fools who continue to do so gets the same result as talking to a brick.
    The best final maintenance solution for those drones comes from a shotgun.

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