Australia Leads the Way in Commercial Drone Regulations

With an announcement from the FAA regarding commercial drone regulations expected imminently, the governing body's Australian counterpart has implemented a raft of new measures to simplify the use of drones for business purposes. 

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority's (CASA) new rules should minimize the most time-consuming commercial requirements faced by business operators using drones that weigh under 2 kilograms, and have been designed to provide “greater flexibility and responsiveness in a rapidly evolving area.”

The new legislation will come into effect in September later this year, and will require commercial operators to simply notify the CASA of drone use, rather than having to obtain a time-consuming and expensive unmanned operator permit or drone operator license. Categories of risk have also been set up according to drone weight, to provide a more flexible approach to commercial drone use, and commercial operators will no longer have to jump through hops to register activity for lightweight aircraft.  

Similar legislation could revolutionize commercial drone use in the US

This kind of move would, if taken by the FAA in the US, legalize the thousands of operators flying lightweight drones for business purposes. 

In order to take advantage of the new, relaxed rules, commercial operators will have to follow the same ground rules as hobby flyers which in Australia, include:

  1. Operate the drone within visual line-of-sight,
  2. Operate at or below 400 feet above ground level by day,
  3. Operate no closer than 30 meters (150 feet) from non-participating persons,
  4. Not operate in restricted or prohibited airspace, populous areas or within 3 nautical miles of the movement area of a controlled airport,
  5. Not operate over fire, police or other emergency operation without approval and
  6. Operate only one drone at a time.

CASA chief executive Mark Skidmore said in a statement, “Remotely piloted aircraft systems are here now and we all know technology is developing at a rapid rate, which means the future of this sector of aviation is both exciting and challenging. It is clear unmanned aircraft technology and capability is changing fast and aviation safety regulators are going to have to develop new safety standards and regulations to keep up." He continued to say that, “The challenge will be to balance the requirement for safe operations without inhibiting the growth and potential of the unmanned sector. This indeed will be a huge challenge.”

New legislation in the commercial drone sector is set to open the door to advances in both hardware and software. It seems only a matter of time before the way many businesses conduct aerial imagery, inspection and maintenance changes forever.