Get a drone for Christmas? Make sure you know the CASA regulations for flying in Australia

Get a drone for Christmas? Make sure you know the CASA regulations for flying in Australia
Written by Techbot

Many of you would have found technology under the Christmas tree this year, and one of the hot technology categories was drones. This post is really a call out to new drone owners to know the rules of flying before you set to the skies and get yourself into trouble.

The governing body for our airspace is the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). CASA has a dedicated page on its website about drone rules that you need to comply with and your drone should have come with a flyer to notify you of this site.

The rules for flying your drone are fairly easy to understand and comply with, these are:

  • You must not fly your drone higher than 120 metres (400 feet) above ground level.
  • You must keep your drone at least 30 metres away from other people.
  • You must only fly one drone at a time.
  • You must keep your drone within visual line-of-sight. This means always being able to see the drone with your own eyes (rather than through a device, screen or goggles).
  • You must not fly over or above people or in a populous area. This could include beaches, parks, events, or sport ovals where there is a game in progress.
  • Respect personal privacy. Don’t record or photograph people without their consent – this may breach other laws.
  • If your drone weighs more than 250 grams, you must fly at least 5.5 kilometres away from a controlled airport, which generally have a control tower at them. Use a drone safety app to find out where you can and can’t fly.
  • Remember, you must not operate your drone in a way that creates a hazard to another aircraft, person or property.
  • You must only fly during the day and you must not fly through cloud or fog.
  • You must not fly your drone over or near an area affecting public safety or where emergency operations are underway. This could include situations such as a car crash, police operations, a fire or firefighting efforts, or search and rescue.
  • If you’re near a helicopter landing site or smaller aerodrome without a control tower, you can fly your drone within 5.5 kilometres. If you become aware of manned aircraft nearby, you must manoeuvre away and land your drone as quickly and safely as possible.
  • If you intend to fly your drone for or at work (commercially), there are extra rules you must follow. You will also need to register your drone and get a licence or accreditation.

When you read through this list, you may see some of them as being restrictive on your flight plans, an I’d agree. There are plenty of amazing clips from drones shared online, many of them would absolutely breach the rules from CASA listed above.

A very basic example of this is flying at night. On the surface, this makes sense as many objects are not easily visible at night and could result in a drone crashing. Practically, not all of us live in the city and there are many wide open spaces where this wouldn’t be a problem, however this is hard to legislate, so we end up with the most restrictive legislation.

Another frustration is the lack of support for FPV drones. According to CASA rules, these are effectively outlawed, which is ridiculous, as FPV drones are a massive category and even an officially recognised sport internationally. When you pop on goggles, you don’t simply forget about the environment you’re flying in, but rather like a bird, have a great ability to navigate those obstacles and when the location is regional, there are also a lot of wide-open spaces to fly without issue.

It is worth knowing that these regulations do change and from 2022 to 2023 will go through further review. CASA flags that they are likely to see an increased demand to provide approvals for:

  • extended visual line of sight (EVLOS) and beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations
  • remote operations centres
  • Australian-registered aircraft for international operations
  • increased automation
  • operations above 400 ft
  • other new and novel operations.

Many DJI drones I’ve flown, certainly have technical capabilities that surpass what is permitted by CASA regulations. The possibility of having the line of sight regulation relaxed, as well as operations above 400ft, would certainly be welcome.

We should also create a distinction between basic, entry-level drones and highly sophisticated, connected drones. While flying the best from DJI, I received a message on the screen that a fixed-wing aircraft is in the area and that I should land. I immediately landed and not 10 seconds later, an aircraft did indeed pass over. We certainly weren’t operating a the same altitude, so this wouldn’t have been an issue, but I’m happy to be extra cautious when lives are potentially at stake.

Regarding range, the best drones are now capable of flying multiple kilometres away from you, well outside the range of what you can see. A view of what the drone can see from your controller, combined with external data, means that having a visual line of sight really isn’t as important as it once was. If the controller and drone become disconnected, the drone would simply return home, it doesn’t fall out of the sky. With the latest drones from DJI, like the Mavic 3, it can avoid obstacles while getting home.

My point here is that if a drone can meet a certain technology capability or has a feature like this, it should not be treated the same as one that doesn’t.

For more information on CASA roadmap, please visit

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