Escalating drone sales a cause for sweeping changes to regulations

Rising technology: Jason Simmons shows off some of the newer models of drones that farmers have been buying up as the technology grows faster than mobile phones, sweeping the industry. Photo: Peter Hardin
Rising technology: Jason Simmons shows off some of the newer models of drones that farmers have been buying up as the technology grows faster than mobile phones, sweeping the industry. Photo: Peter Hardin

Drone technology “is growing faster than mobile phones”, and has been equally matched by growth in demand according to local retailer Brett Peters, who said that farmers are his largest buying group.

The owner of New England Instrument Company was not surprised to see the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) recently announce new interim regulations in regards to safer and stricter operational rules, solely based on the fact that every week there are more and more drones in the sky, both recreational and professional.

“Sales have just been growing and growing, and the technology is growing so fast that models become obsolete and then we have back orders on the new models,” Mr Peters said.

“The rule changes are mostly about privacy and safety – people not using drones responsibly.”

“The models are changing so rapidly. There are pocket-sized drones now with cameras that can fit in a back pack, so obviously privacy is an issue, as well as them falling out of the sky on people.” 

While safety around the drones has become an issue, the advantages that the booming technology present far outweighs the dangers, and farming is just one of many industries that are jumping on board.

“We have been selling drones to many different industries and businesses like Essential Energy, the Lands Department and the mining industry, but the best application has been to farmers,” Mr Peters said.

“Farmers are using them to check stock and to check stock routes and boundaries. They can just set the route once and the drone will fly itself and record it all on the camera for them to either watch live or at a later time.”

“They can even carry up to 10 litres of liquid for spot spraying – Anything where accessibility is an issue.”

CASA’s Director of Aviation Safety, Shane Carmody, said the new drone rules still allow plenty of opportunities for people to fly drones for fun.

“CASA identified some areas in the drone rules that needed strengthening and clarifying to better manage the risks associated with flying drones.”

CASA introduces stricter and safer rules on drones

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has introduced stricter and safer drone flying rules as sales in the new technology continue to boom.

The new guidelines specifically focus on the use of recreational drones and “are set out in an interim formal direction that will apply until a full review of the drone regulations is completed.”

Recreational drones must now never be flown within 5.5 kilometres of any controlled or non-controlled aerodrome or helicopter landing sites if it is clear aircraft are operating there, as well as kept clear of any emergency operations involving fire, police, or ambulance.

They must also be kept below 400 feet, and more than 30m from other people, while existing laws prohibit flights above crowds and out of visual lines of sight from the operator.