$850 Drone fine: CASA using YouTube to identify illegal drone use

If you’ve got a drone and haven’t been keeping a close eye on the regulations that outline where and when you can fly it – be very careful. Uploading videos taken from your drone to the internet could result in the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) sending you a hefty fine.

One Queensland drone pilot found this out the hard way, after receiving an $850 fine for his drone use – all based on videos he had uploaded to YouTube.

 

The owner – who does not wish to be named, received a phone call from a CASA investigator notifying him of multiple breaches. Each of which could have resulted in an $850 fine. In the end his single $850 fine was a lucky break with the CASA investigator stating, “while each individual breach was not major in itself, the number of breaches has caused me concern”.

CASA regulations state that hobbyists who fly for no commercial gain cannot fly their drones:

The most popular drone on the market, the DJI Phantom – has software built into it that can prevent it taking off near airports and limit its height. The problem seems to be the owners who want to toy with the regulators, because they think no-one is watching.

For this Queensland owner, the specific offence outlined in this infringement was “operating a model aircraft over a populous area at a height less than the height from which, if any of its components fails, it would be able to clear the area.”

So does CASA have staff watching online videos to find offenders?  Peter Gibson, spokesperson for CASA told EFTM, “I’m not going to pretend we sit there every day trawling through YouTube because that would be ridiculous. However, where we see things, or where people bring things to our attention then we will investigate”.

The fines can range anywhere from $850 for breaches of the basic guidelines, right through to $8,000 for “reckless operation”, with Mr Gibson pointing out “if you injure someone, CASA can also seek prosecution.

We’re not trying to penalise people, but if you behave stupidly, then you certainly run the risk”.

When the fine was sent this week, it also had attached a set of “Facts and Circumstances”. This document outlined the reasons for the fine, including that CASA had been alerted to the videos, which prompted their investigation.

In its “Decision” section there is reference to the fact that it’s a “counselling letter”.  Do it again, and CASA will “draw the conclusion that you have a wilful disregard for aviation safety, and the regulator will respond accordingly”.

The drone in question has already appeared for sale on online classifieds site Gumtree, and one can only assume this fine has scared the flights out of this pilot.

LISTEN: EFTM’s interview with Peter Gibson from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority