Did you ask Santa for a drone this Christmas? You need to know the CASA rules

    Many of us have hopes and dreams as to what’s under the Christmas tree this year and with drones continuing to be high on the list for many Aussies, it’s important that you understand the rules around flying.

    Smarter drones like those from DJI, have built-in location databases that help you adhere to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) regulations, but not all do, so best you know them, to avoid fines.

    Personally, I’ve flown drones for years and understand they don’t simply fall out of the sky as some people imagine. Could they be flown poorly and injury someone, absolutely, so, in essence, we need rules to ensure the bad actors are kept in check.

    I often watch videos online and see some fantastic drone footage from across the world, that under Australia’s rules, would be illegal, so I definitely think Australia has some overly restrictive regulations. That said, there will always going to be people who miss-use the technology and there does need to be boundaries.

    If you’re flying a drone in Australia, you need to follow the instructions below


    • only fly one drone at a time
    • always fly your drone within visual line-of-sight — this means:
      • flying only during the day
      • avoid flying in cloud, fog or heavy rain
      • you can see your drone with your own eyes at all times — not by using binoculars or watching a video screen
      • not flying behind trees, buildings or anything else that stops you seeing your drone at all times.

    Must not fly your drone:

    • higher than 120 m (400 ft) above ground level — that’s about the height of a 35-storey building or length of a football field
    • closer than 30 m to people — other than those helping to fly or navigate your drone
    • over or above people at any time or height
    • in a way that creates a hazard to another person, aircraft or property
    • near emergency situations
    • in prohibited or restricted airspace (use a CASA-verified drone safety app to help you)
    • closer than 5.5 km to a controlled aerodrome or airfield (usually those with a control tower), if your drone weighs more than 250 g.

    You may operate your drone within 5.5 km of a non-controlled aerodrome or helicopter landing site only if:

    • there are no manned aircraft (one or more people inside) flying to or from the aerodrome
    • you land as soon as safely possible if you see any manned aircraft flying to or from the aerodrome
    • you stay outside the airfield boundary


    The penalties for not doing so can be quite substantial. Fines of up to $1,110 can be issued per offence and further ‘demerit’ style points can be applied to your licence or certificate.

    If matters are sent to court, you could be convicted of a crime, have demerits added to your licence or certificate, and/or fined up to $11,100.

    If you are found to be operating a drone in a way that is hazardous to other aircraft, the penalty can be up to two years in prison and/or a fine up to $26,640 for an individual.

    It’s also illegal to shoot down or interfere with a drone, even if it’s flying over your home or backyard. The penalty can be up to two years in prison and/or a fine of up to $26,640 for an individual.

    “Drone safety advocates have pledged to follow a specific set of guidelines when selling drones.

    The guidelines ensure they are providing consumers with important safety information on when, where, and how they can use their drone safely— and stay within the law.”

    CASA spokesman Peter Gibson says.

    There are 27 CASA-recognised drone safety advocates across the country, including manufacturers DJI and Zero-X and major retail outlets such as Officeworks, JB Hi-Fi and Ted’s Cameras.

    Safety is important to JB Hi-Fi, one of the largest drone safety advocate retailers to sign up to the voluntary initiative.

    “Safety is important to us at JB HiFi, so we are very proud to partner with CASA to provide the information required to safely fly a drone within Australian government guidelines, and to ensure that all current rules, regulations and flying zones are available to our customers,”

    Managing Director JB Hi-Fi, Cameron Trainor.

    Australia’s drone safety rules protect people, property and other aircraft.

    Drone users should also download or use a web-based version of a CASA-verified drone safety app to check where they can fly their drone in accordance with aviation legislation.

    The drone safety rules, apps, interactive quiz and a complete list of safety advocates are available online at: 

    Jason Cartwright
    Jason Cartwright
    Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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