Gatwick Airport is a major transit point in the UK. Seeking maximum disruption, a drone operator has flown a pair of drones over the runway area, causing the shutdown of all inbound and outbound flights resulting in over 100,000 passengers having their pre-Christmas travel plans disrupted. Clearing the backlog of 760 flights will take days, likely resulting in many families not being reunited for Christmas. Here are some tips to ensure you don't have the constabulary knocking on your door after taking your new drone out for a post Christmas flight.
Eden Attias, CEO of drone safety systems company ParaZero says it's critical that the drones you buy for kids and adults are age appropriate. It's important to note that small drones are subject to the same rules as their bigger brother. So, that $20 cheapie from the stand in your local mall is governed by the same rules as profession devices costing thousands of dollars.
CASA’s Droneflyer website is a great resource for recreational drone users, with all of the relevant rules, along with videos, tips and tricks, and links to additional materials. With relevant regulations liable to change as the industry matures, it’s worth checking the website every few months to make sure you’re across any new developments.
The main rules are
- You can’t fly your drone higher than 120 metres above the ground, as anything above that is considered controlled airspace
- You can only fly your drone during the day in clear conditions and within visual line of sight. Being able to see its location in the drone’s remote control app or through binoculars doesn’t count.
- You can’t fly your drone within 30 metres of other people (the exception being anyone who’s helping you control the drone) – which rules out its use in popular tourist destinations and events.
- You can’t fly your drone over populated areas or over people like crowded beaches, festivals, parks, and sports ovals when there’s a game in progress.
- You can’t fly your drone over or near an area affecting public safety or where emergency operations are underway like a car crash, police operation, a fire, and search and rescue operations.
- You can’t operate your drone in prohibited or restricted areas such as private property, national parks, prisons, military bases, schools and council land without prior permission.
- Drones that weigh more than 100 grams need to be kept it at least 5.5km away from controlled aerodromes (such as airports and aviation airfields). You can fly closer than that for non-controlled aerodrome or helicopter landing sites, provided manned aircrafts aren’t operating to or from the aerodrome.
The fines for breaching CASA's rules are quite steep. Earlier this year, a man in Brisbane was fined $1,050 for flying his drone over an Ed Sheeran concert.The fines can reach $9,000 for recreational flyers.
Drones can be a lot of fun but they are harder to control than a remote controlled toy car and can cause great disruption leading to dangerous situations and significant fines for their owners and operators. Play it safe with your drone and make sure you follow the appropriate rules. Remember, all drones, regardless of size, are governed by the same rules.