An inquiry into unmanned aircraft systems by the Australian government has returned a loud and clear statement: make registration of drones mandatory.
The senate inquiry, which released its findings this week, has also called for stricter airspace restrictions.
The two-year long inquiry was initiated after concerns about the danger of drones flying into other aircraft. There have been many such incidents, such as one in New Zealand earlier this year, sparking further calls by aviation professionals for a tightening of restrictions both in Australia and overseas.
The 121 page report calls for a collaborative approach to the issues raised, saying that for an effective outcome, there must be involvement of the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities working with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
“During the course of the inquiry, it became clear to the committee that RPAS regulation and safety requires a coordinated, holistic approach which encompasses matters including national security, importation, consumer protection, and technological innovation,” says the report.
A policy formulated by this governement-wide approach should introduce measures to improve public safety, including laws in line with the UK and the US, such as a “mandatory registration regime for all RPAS weighing more than 250 grams”.
This meets with CASA’s recent review which also recommends registration of drones weighing over 250 grams.
The new registration laws, which would need to amend current legislation to cover drones under 2kg, would also include compulsory competence tests “regarding the safe use of RPAS” for drone operators.
The report also recommends a tiered system of education that allows drone pilots to “unlock” capabilities when flying drones.
The tiers would consist of beginner, recreational and commercial.
“The introduction of a mandatory registration regime provides an opportunity to reach and inform all RPAS users whilst also requiring of them a demonstrated understanding and awareness of safe RPAS use,” the report states.
“After successful completion of additional training, limitations could then be removed entirely for operators using RPAS for commercial or exempted purposes,” it continues.
“The final tier would equate to the current training requirements for a commercial operator’s licence.”
Tighter restrictions around sensitiveness areas such as “significant public buildings, critical infrastructure and other vulnerable areas” has also been recommended, even going so far as to suggest a complete ban above such areas is required.
To ensure compliance, the report recommends that consumer ‘off-the-shelf’ drones be equipped with “technical restrictions to ensure compliance with the rules”.
The ability to issue on-the-spot fines to those breaching the regulations would be delegated to approporaite bodies and reported back to CASA.