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Sky-high shenanigans

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Just the other week, my aunt – who lives in Jurien Bay, was telling me how she returned home in the afternoon to find a drone hovering just a few meters above her head in her very own front yard. Understandably surprised, and then concerned, she asked me what I knew about the rules governing drone use in Western Australia – and a quick Google brought me up to speed. I thought it would be useful to share because it’s one of those ever-changing grey areas in our increasingly tech-driven world.

According to CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) you must not fly your drone higher than 120 metres above ground level. You must also keep it at least 30 metres away from other people (yes, clearly the drone in question was over stepping personal boundaries!).

Other rules include keeping your drone within visual line-of-sight and only flying one drone at a time. It’s quite clear that you must respect personal privacy, and must not fly over or above people or in a populous area. This includes beaches, parks, events, or sport ovals where there is a game in progress.

If your drone can take photos, other layer of privacy issues come into play. Recording or photographing people without their consent only breaches privacy laws if the drone and the operator is an organisation or agency. Frighteningly, The Privacy Act does not apply to individuals acting in a private capacity. Which means you have very little recourse if, for example, the neighbour’s teenager takes a pic of you hanging out the washing in your underwear, or (heaven forbid) catching a few rays seins nus, although if they are close up, they will be in breach of the 30-metre rule.

Special rules also exist to protect controlled airspaces and emergency aircraft. If your drone weighs more than 250 grams, you must fly not fly within 5.5 kilometres of a controlled airport. Bullsbrook is of course one such area in the region where drones are not permitted due to the Air Force Base – but did you know that operating a drone in emergency situations such as a car crash, police operations, a fire or firefighting efforts, or search and rescue is also illegal?

There is a good list of safety apps here. If you believe you’ve seen someone breaking the rules, you can report it to CASA. Fines of up to $1,565 can be issued per offence. If the matter is taken to court, fines of up to $15,650 can be imposed.