Australian Drone Laws for Recreational Drone Flyers
When we fly commercially we always get asked questions regarding Australian drone laws for recreational users. CASA has set up a user-friendly website which explains the rules and regulations. We suggest you check this website before flying your drone. I’ve written this article to expand a little on these rules and clarify some questions we get asked frequently.
Note: This article has been written specifically to assist recreational users. I'm the Chief Remote Pilot and commercial drone operator at Bendigo Aerial. We are governed and audited by our ReOC (Remote Operator Certificate) which may exclude some of these drone laws and regulations. I will shortly write an article specifically for Commercial Drone Operators.
CASA Drone Safety App
Before flying download the CASA “OpenSky by Wing” Drone Safety App. For recreational users, this is a great app which explains Australian drone laws and shows the location where you can and cannot fly. The app also identifies restricted zones, airports, helicopter landing sites, public safety issues, disasters and approach/departure areas of airfields. The app is free and can also be viewed directly from your internet browser. To see a full list of approved CASA apps for recreational flyers search CASA Certified Drone Safety Apps.
New: Australian Drone Registration
For recreational drone users and flying for fun, drone registration will be required by 30 May 2022. Some drones will not require registration example under 250 grams that are not used for commercial/business use.
If you fly your drone commercially or for your business - all drones need to be registered by the 28th January 2021. A certificate of registration is required and valid for 12 months. From January 2021: Failure to provide the certificate of registration to Police or CASA officials can incur fines of up to $11,100. Learn More About Drone Registration.
Australian Drone Laws and Regulations Explained
(1). Only fly during the day
As a recreational user, you can only fly your drone during daylight. This means between sunrise and sunset. Once the sun has set, the pilot must land their aircraft and/or not take off. Night flying is strictly prohibited for all recreational drone flyers. Terminology: BOD stands for Beginning of Day, EOD stands for End of Day.
(2). 120 Meters or 400 Feet Maximum Flight Height AGL
You must not fly your drone higher than 400FT or 120M from the ground. If a building is at 50M above ground, you are not permitted to go to the top of the building and fly your drone 120M above the top. Instead, the 120M is taken from the ground level of the building. Terminology: AGL = Above Ground Level and MSL = Mean Sea Level
(3). You must not fly over or above people
It’s against the law to fly over any person. This rule expands to local parks, sporting events, ovals where there is a game on and includes populous area. Definition of populous: The area where you are flying has sufficient density to people, cars, buildings, events etc.
(4). 30 Meter Separation
While you are not permitted to fly over people, you must keep your drone at least 30 meters away from people. This includes property such as parked cars, foot traffic, moving vehicles, infrastructure such as a railway.
(5). VLOS – Visual Line of Sight
You must always be able to see your drone with your own eyes. Without the aid of a phone/tablet screen or the use of FPV (First Person View) goggles. If your drone is out of sight or too far away, then you’re BLOS – (Beyond line of sight). Drone Laws in Australia only permit for a visual line of sight. Visual line of sight also refers to not flying in fog or clouds.
(6). Public Safety and Emergencies
You must not fly your drone near a current emergency. Example car crash, rescue, fire, bushfire, police operation. For larger incidents, the CASA app will indicate a red circle around the incident. The restricted area is removed once the incident is clear. You can also check on the Victorian Emergency website.
(7). 5.5KM Radius from Airports and Helicopter Landing Sites
Controlled Airport (Airport with a Tower): If your drone weighs more than 250grams, you must stay away at least 5.5KM (3NM - Nautical Miles) from a controlled airport. Example Melbourne, Essendon, Avalon, Moorabbin Airports.
Non-Controlled Airport (Airport without a Tower): When the airport is listed as non-controlled example Bendigo Airport, you may fly inside the 5.5KM radius (3NM - Nautical Miles) only if you know that no aircraft are taking off and landing from the non-controlled airport. When you see or hear an aircraft while inside the non-controlled zone, you must land immediately and not take off.
As of September 2020: Manual of Standards Part 101 was updated to include a no-fly zone anywhere inside 3NM - Nautical Miles (5.5KM) of a non-controlled airport, include the approach and departure paths. Excluded Category and recreational drone operators are no longer permitted to fly inside 3NM - Nautical Miles (5.5KM) of an non-controlled airport. See section 9.02 and 9.03.
** Certified operators who hold a RePL and ReOC have documented process to fly in these zones and are permitted to fly inside 3NM of an non-controlled airport when there is no relevant event. What is a Relevant Event? A relevant event is when a manned aircraft is in the airspace, including when the aircraft is approaching, landing, taking off, or moving around the airport.
(8). Approach and Departure of Controlled and Non-Controlled Airports
This is a restricted zone and flying is strictly prohibited within the approach and departure of a non-controlled and controlled airport. The approach and departure lanes span 15 degrees up to 7KM from the airport and are visible on various CASA Apps. The zone is highlighted in red (restricted) as manned aircraft maybe making their approach or taking off. Manned aircraft may be flying under 400FT in these zones.
(9). Drone Laws Regarding Privacy
Different states have different laws regarding privacy and photography. As a rule, don’t photograph anyone without their consent. As a recreational user, you are required to respect public privacy by not photographing people. If you are concerned about drone privacy you can contact the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
(10). Fly one drone at a time
Not sure how anyone can fly multiple drones at the same time. This drone law is exactly what it states. Only fly one drone per person at any one time. You can own multiple drones, just fly them one at a time.
Drone Laws You May Not Know
This section highlights some drone laws that many recreational users don’t know. They range from rules that affect your local state to conservation and environment.
Flying over Whales, Dolphins and Marine Animals
There are safe distances and approach limits to keep from whales, dolphins and marine animals. You can read more about The Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching. You may think this is a joke, however, fines range from $500.00 to $100,000 per offence. Play it safe, don’t fly near protected marine life.
Drones Prohibited in all Parks Victoria Land
I recently wrote a detailed article about Parks Victoria and drones. Recreational drone use is prohibited in all state parks, national parks and reserves across Victoria. Across Australia, each State Park authority will have its own rules and regulations for taking off and landing in managed parkland.
Restricted and Prohibited Zones
Within Australia, there are several permanent no-fly zones where flying a drone is prohibited. Example ALL correctional facilities, Sydney Harbour, military locations (example Point Cook), some telescopes and satellite stations, private contractors and science facilities. Check the CASA Apps for more details on these areas.
Using a Drone for Commercial / Business Use
Without proper accreditation, drone laws prohibit recreational drone operators from using drones for business/commercial use. This includes creating content for websites, social media, real estate and commercials. However, if your drone weighs under 2KG you can apply to CASA to fly Excluded Category (Sub 2KG Class). As of 30th of September 2020, to fly excluded category you must get an aviation number, get an Operator Accreditation, register your drone and fly using the above recreational/standard operating rules. From 28 January 2021, flying for business/commercial without proper valid accreditation will incur fines of up to $11,100.
Using a Spotter – Not a Drone Law
Although it’s not a drone law, it’s always good to have a spotter on your side. The spotter can keep an eye on the drone or lookout for hazards while you fly. Or you can take turns flying if you are with a friend.
Let’s wrap this up!
Final drone law – USE COMMON SENSE! Yes I know I had to say it. All these rules and regulations are just common sense. They are in place to keep people on the ground and in the air safe. By respecting these drone laws you’re keeping the industry safe as well as promoting drone safety to others. If you require further information or want to add information I may have missed in this article, please contact me.
Safe flying and have fun flying drones.
Bendigo Aerial Recent Blog Entries
Document Revision Notes
- 2020-DEC: Added Manual of Standard - Latest Revision for non-controlled airports.
- 2020-NOV: Updated - Using a Drone for Commercial / Business Use.
- 2020-NOV: Updated - Drone Registration Information.
- 2020-SEP: Updated - 5.5KM Radius from Airports and Helicopter Landing Sites
- 2019-AUG: Removed - CASA "Can I fly here?" app was discontinued.