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Drone on: amendments to CASA’s drone regulations

On 29 September 2016 amendments to Part 101 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations which regulates drones, or ‘unmanned aeronautical activities’ come into effect.

The changes to the regulations aim to cut red tape around the use of drones, particularly in the commercial context.  In particular, the new regulations will make it significantly easier for farmers to invest in, and use drone technology without the added cost and inconvenience of complying with licencing and certification requirements.   

What are the changes?

The 3 main changes under the regulations are:

  1. drones will now be categorised differently, for example; small: 2kg – 25kg, medium 25kg – 150kg and large more than 150kg;
  2. drones must be operated within visual line of sight and in accordance with Part 101 of the Manual of Standards; and
  3. drone licensing and certification requirements will change.

The biggest impact in the agribusiness sector is the change to licencing requirements.

Do I need a licence and operator’s certificate to operate a drone on my farm?

When operating a small drone (2kg – 25kg), neither a remote pilot licence nor an operator’s certificate is required if the drone is operated:

  • by or on behalf of the owner of the drone;
  • over land owned or occupied by the owner of the drone;
  • following the ‘standard operating conditions’ (restrictions include, but are not limited to, operating within operator's line of site, not within 30m of a person not associated with the operation);
  • for the purposes of agricultural operations; and
  • where no payment is received by the operator or owner of the drone or land.

This means that farmers will now be able to operate drones up to 25kg on private property without a remote pilot licence or an operator’s certificate.  In addition, drones greater than 25kg but less than 150kg can be used in line with the above conditions without an operator’s certificate, provided a remote pilot licence is held.

Can my employees operate a drone on my farm?

A strict interpretation of the new regulations suggests that on-farm employees will not be able to operate drones without licencing, as they are being remunerated for their work and therefore the operation will fall into the 'commercial' category of operation.

 

Authors: Andrew Gill (Partner) and Alexandra Glover (Lawyer), MinterEllison, Canberra

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