So you want to fly a drone. So you want to make some money? Well until now that was an expensive excercise. First you had to buy a drone, then you had to get a licence and qualification to fly it and make money from those flights. For many people, that changes today.
Remotely piloted aircraft are heavily regulated to protect our airspace, the aircraft in the air, and all people and property on the ground, and as such the Civil Aviation Safety Authority have had to contend with some rapid changes in technology over recent years with the rise of the hobby drone and the people wanting to fly them.
The regulations exist because a small drone can cause serious damage to people and property, let alone cause a disaster if there’s a collision with another aircraft.
However, the drones these days we can buy are relatively easy to fly, and can produce amazing photos and videos. Creating a market for drone photography and video.
Likewise, in rural and remote areas the potential for drones to play a role in property control and checks is amazing.
As of today, owners of small drones (under 2kg) can use their drone and make money with it, and private land-owners can carry out some commercial-like operations on your own land without needing a licence.
The process CASA have followed is not entirely simple, but as simple as you might hope for a government regulatory body.
Any drone owner wishing to undertake commercial activity must first have an Aviation Reference Number (ARN). This number is a unique identifier that places you on the record at CASA as a business or individual.
Once you have an ARN you need to complete an online notification form at least five days before conducting your first commercial activity.
With that done, you’re free to create videos and photos that you can sell! Or hire our your services to create videos and photos for people.
But – and it’s the most important But of this whole story – you must still abide by the basic “RPA Operating conditions”.
- You must only fly during the day and keep your RPA within visual line-of sight.
- You must not fly your RPA higher than 120 metres above ground level.
- You must keep your RPA at least 30 metres away from other people.
- You must keep your RPA at least 5.5km away from controlled aerodromes.
- You must not fly your RPA over any populous areas. These can include: beaches, parks and sporting ovals.
- You must not fly your RPA 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.
- You can only fly one RPA at a time.
These are the basic dot-point guidelines. Experienced pilots will tell you there are in fact many more, for example all of Sydney Harbour is classified as “controlled airspace” so you cannot fly there, though I think CASA would give warnings before any fine given the publicity around the above “guidelines”.
Speaking to experienced pilots, particularly helicopter pilots, there’s a real risk of innocent and idiot drone pilots flying in their way.
Choppers are meant to be 150m and up, the drone space is below. However, when you deal with sea level vs take-off ground level there is often a stark difference.
In the end, it is YOUR responsibility to have a line-of-sight visual on your drone at all times and avoid other aircraft. This includes being aware of regular landing sites for choppers and heavily trafficked areas.
Importantly, this isn’t putting loads of commercial drone pilots out of business. You can’t take photos for real estate agents in the city – that would require flying near roads and close to buildings, only those with licences and applied exemptions can do that – so don’t think these changes are a pot of gold.
Drones are fun, they take great photos – but they could bring down an airliner. Take care when you fly.