By ANNABEL HEPWORTH – Aviation Editor
The potential for recreational drone users to face further regulations has increased after a report by the nation’s civil aviation watchdog backed mandatory registration for gadgets weighing more than 250g.
Such a move would bring Australia into line with the US, where Federal Aviation Administration rules require drones weighing more than 250g to be registered.
The Australian can reveal that CASA’s report from its review into remotely piloted aircraft systems also says the body should develop an online course for hobbyists — followed by a quiz with a minimum pass mark. The report will be released today.
In other findings, the report flags continued support for the development of geofencing technology — which curbs where drones can fly — that drone manufacturers are working on. The focus of such a technology would be on stopping drones from operating near major airports and in certain types of restricted airspace.
The Australian revealed last year that CASA had early-stage talks with Chinese drone manufacturer DJI about rolling out its geofencing system here.
In other findings, the report finds CASA should deliver a “road map” for integrating drones into airspace, which could include systems that allow drone users to stay safely separated from other aircraft.
The issue of drones within controlled airspace has challenged regulators across the globe.
In late March, Air New Zealand called for tighter regulation for the illegal operation of drones following a near-miss as a flight from Tokyo approached Auckland Airport. Pilots had encountered the drone estimated to be 5m away from the 777-200 as it was descending. Also in March, flight operations at Auckland Airport were stopped for 30 minutes when a pilot reported a drone. The International Air Transport Association has also previously emphasised the need for the sector to do more to deal with the issues posed by the risk of drones near piloted aircraft.
CASA’s director of aviation safety, Shane Carmody, stressed that before making any final decisions on regulatory change proposals, CASA would take into account the report from the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee’s inquiry into drone safety and the government’s response to that report. The Senate committee is due to report on July 31, with the Senate having repeatedly extended the reporting date.
“We understand the drone sector of aviation is growing and evolving rapidly as technology moves ahead in leaps and bounds,” Mr Carmody said.
“The challenge for CASA as the safety regulator is to maintain drone rules which are relevant, address known risks and not place a restrictive burden on a dynamic industry.”
CASA released a discussion paper last year on drone safety regulation and received 900 submissions. These indicated backing for a system of registration for remotely piloted aircraft. The government announced the review in late 2016.
Mr Carmody said the body would hold consultations on proposals when decisions on regulatory change were made. He said the report would help guide CASA on what changes should be made to rules dealing with unmanned aerial vehicles.
Source: The Australian Newspaper Online