In a first for Australia, drone flying is all set to become more regulated from coming July with the soon to be introduced flyer’s licenses and mandatory registration for all drone operators, as announced by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) via ABC reports.
- Drone flyer data will be kept in a database to track users
- Those with drones of more than 250g will have to pass an online education course
- A drone delivery service is set to begin operation in Canberra once CASA approves it.
As of now licenses for drones weighing over 2 kilograms, are mandatory with an “excluded” category for those operating under that weight and within certain conditions. With the rule changes, all pilots of drones over 250 grams will have to pass an online education course and register their drone, according to policy documents prepared by CASA.
Maintaining these records in a database will give authorities information about the number of operational drones and their owner’s authorization as well. Happy with the rule changes CASA spokesman Peter Gibson told the ABC, “It will certainly give us big advantages in terms of complaints or reports of drones being flown improperly or against the safety rules. We’ll have a starting point to know who flies drones in that area, what sort of drone they fly.”
Costs are expected to be roughly $20 per hobbyist and $100 – $160 for operators of commercial drones or for anybody wanting to fly anything weighing over 250 grams.
Explaining that CASA is still developing a full real-time network that can track drones like it does aircraft Mr Gibson said, “For the first time we’ll have an overall picture of the drone sector … probably there are tens of thousands, possibly even 100,000, but at this point we don’t know.”
The drone industry has been growing rapidly in Australia- Google’s parent company Alphabet began trialing the use of drones to deliver burritos, coffee and medication in a suburb on the fringes of Canberra last year.
With Google preparing to launch skyward in Australia as well, CASA needed to be ready for a complicated network of drones flying above Australia’s cities. Like any commercial operator, Google is already licensed to fly by the safety authority. However CASA said it needed to develop a system to manage all flyers, including drone hobbyists. “Clearly the unmanned traffic system is the key to safe and efficient drone operations, and all the players that are working in these areas are developing their own systems,” Mr Gibson said.
This rules change comes just in time, before the launch of a drone food delivery service in Canberra by Alphabet’s “Project Wing” trial in Bonython, outer Canberra, concluded this month, and the company plans to operate a world-first commercial delivery service shortly. The trial led to complaints from some residents about noise and is being addressed.