Summary of CASA’s Standard Operating Conditions

Drone Operations Queensland Info

Whether a beginner, a serious aviation enthusiast, or just a fan of gadgets, many of you will have received drones as Christmas gifts.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have surged in popularity and affordability in recent years, and there’s no doubt that recreational drone use is on the rise as a result.

But not all recreational drone users know the law — or if they do, they don’t appear to be following it.

There has been a string of near misses between drones and other aircraft, and other cases of irresponsible use.

Only last month, a recreational drone user was investigated by Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) after evidently flying a drone over a crowded Bunnings carpark to pick up a sausage at a sausage sizzle.

In the run-up to Christmas, UN aviation officials this month warned anyone getting a drone to make sure they learn how to operate it safely.

So if Santa has brought you one, here’s what you need to know.

Get on board

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In Australia, if you want to fly your drone for fun, you don’t need CASA’s approval – as long as you follow the authority’s simple safety rules.

Recreational drone operators must comply with CASA’s rules (known as its standard operating conditions).

Fly within the standard operating conditions

  • CASA states – You must not fly higher than 120 metres (400 ft) above the ground, in all locations (etc.)
  • Furthermore -You must not fly your RPA/drone over or near an area affecting public safety or where emergency operations are underway (without prior approval). This could include situations such as a car crash, police operations, a fire and associated firefighting efforts, and search and rescue operations.
  •  You must not fly your RPA/drone within 30 metres of people, unless the other person is part of controlling or navigating the drone.
  • Also -You must only fly one RPA/drone at a time.
  • You must keep your RPA/drone at least 5.5km away from controlled aerodromes (usually those with a control tower)
  • You may fly within 5.5km of a non-controlled aerodrome or helicopter landing site (HLS) only if manned aircraft are not operating to or from the aerodrome.
  • If you become aware of manned aircraft operating to or from the aerodrome/ HLS, you must manoeuvre away from the aircraft and land as soon as safely possible.

This includes:

  • not operating your RPA/drone within the airfield boundary
  • not operating your RPA/drone in the approach and departure paths of the aerodrome
  • You must only fly during the day and keep your RPA/drone within visual line-of sight.
  • This means being able to orientate, navigate and see the aircraft with your own eyes (rather than through a device at all times). Example: goggles or video screen.
  • You must not fly your RPA over the top of people. Examples include festivals, sporting ovals, populated beaches, parks, busy roads and footpaths.
  • You must not operate an RPA/drone in a way that creates a hazard to another aircraft, another person, or property
  • You must not operate your RPA/drone in prohibited or restricted areas.

Please respect personal privacy. Don’t record or photograph people without their consent—this may breach state laws.

*Please note: If you want to operate outside these conditions (for example, fly closer than 30 metres to people), you will need to hold a remote operator’s certificate (ReOC).

The above operating conditions are a broad reflection of Civil Aviation Safety Regulations Part 101 and do not include all the regulations you must follow. You must abide by all the regulations detailed in Part 101. If you don’t you could face enforcement action, including large fines and possible jail time.

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CASA also reminds us that:

If you violate these rules, CASA can take action against you in the form of infringement notices (read: fines) up to $8500 per offence. If you put people at risk or seriously injure someone, the penalties are far more serious and will be dealt with on a case by case basis.

For example, a private drone operator was allegedly using a quadcopter above a marathon race. The drone reportedly failed and struck a woman in the head causing serious injury.

CASA then took the case before the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to see whether or not criminal charges could be laid against the operator.