CASA estimates there are at least 50,000 drones being operated in Australia today, mostly for sport and recreational purposes. Observing regulations being applied around the world, CASA are now considering requiring drone registration for all drone operators. Registration sounds like a relatively easy thing on the surface, just grab the serial number and submit it to a website, but its actually a very complex system to create and maintain, which begs the question, who’s going to pay for it.
The answer to that is most likely you, the owner, although the discussion paper released today suggests the manufacturer, owner or operator all could be potential avenues of financing this system. It even talks about enforcing all drones operated in Australia adhere to geo-restricted areas, a list that would also need to be maintained.
The harsh reality is that we do need to be smart about how we allow drones to operate in our skies as there will be bad citizens just as there are on our roads. Drone’s above a certain size, weight and speed could kill someone if used incorrectly, so there’s solid reasons for having rules in place.
That said, I am already frustrated by footage achieved by friends overseas that simply isn’t possible in Australia, like flying over buildings and people. Drone’s like serious manufacturers like DJI, don’t just fall out of the sky and often have enough smarts to protect themselves from flying into buildings and people. Not all drones are created equal though, many are cheap and dumb and will happily obey any input you feed it, with no sense of self-preservation, these drones should be restricted in different ways to the smarter drones.
No drone owner or operator wants to intentionally injure a person, but accidents do happen. This means we have to separate out people who are likely to have accidents and those who aren’t, similar to the demographics addressed in vehicle insurance policies.
If operators had the capability to prove their their flight experience, perhaps through a mobile app that presents challenges they have to successfully complete, then they should have much few restrictions placed on them, rather than the same rule applies to everyone.
External evidence of drone operators experience isn’t immediately obvious when you a person with a controller in the wild, so perhaps a free, digital licence could be available for drone operators to present via the app. If they were found to breach regulations, this could be revoked.
If you vehemently disagree with CASA’s potential to slap drone owners with further restrictions and the associated costs, make sure you head over to consultation.casa.gov.au and read through the discussion paper, then make sure you let them know loud and clear how you feel in the online survey.