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Drone Limitations - Which Drones Can I Fly Without a License?

One of the first things drone owners ask is, “do you need a drone licence in Australia?” and rightfully so. Not securing a licence may cause serious problems, and drone owners are better off avoiding penalties (or worse, jail time) for not following CASA requirements.

As a general rule, recreational drones can be flown even without a licence in Australia. However, this doesn’t mean that there are no rules or that you’re exempt from following the Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s guidelines on drone use.

Of course, when it comes to rules, it’s important to stay updated because these regulations can change, especially for drones that may not exactly fit traditional classifications. Over the years, there have been many changes, and it’s up to the remotepilots themselves to make sure they’re staying compliant.

As far as flying without an Australian drone licence, these are the current limitations imposed by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) on recreational drones. If you find yourself asking, “where i can fly my drone”, the answer should also be covered in the list:

  • You must fly your drone below 400 feet or 120 metres and keep it in sight at all times

  • You can only fly during the daytime and in good weather conditions

  • You must avoid flying near airports, helipads, or any other type of aircraft

  • You must not fly over groups of people, stadiums, or sensitive infrastructure

  • You must not fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol

xag surveying drone

When Do You Need a License to Fly a Drone?

If your intention is to use a commercial drone like an aerial survey drone, agricultural drone, you will need to get a licence for them. Again, there are still exceptions that you must keep in mind. In Australia, drones must be registered, and operators must have a licence if they weigh more than 250 grams. Drones that weigh less than 250 grams can be flown without a licence if they meet certain conditions. These include:

  • The drone must be flown in daylight hours only

  • The drone must not fly higher than 30 metres (100 feet) above the ground

  • The drone must not fly within 5.5 kilometres (3 nautical miles) of an airport or heliport

  • The drone operator must keep the drone within visual line of sight at all times

  • The drone must not fly over populous areas

  • The drone must not fly near emergency situations

  • The drone operator must not be under the influence of drugs or alcohol

If you are planning to fly a drone that weighs more than 250 grams, you will need to obtain a license from CASA. To do this, you will need to complete an accredited remote pilot license course. Once you have completed the course, you will be able to apply for a licence.

Do You Still Need a Licence if You Plan to Fly Over Your Property?

It’s understandable for drone owners to want to know if flying their Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) still requires a licence. After all, nobody wants to get fined on their own property. But the answer to this question is still ‘it depends’.

It’s perfectly acceptable to fly your commercial drone over your own property, but you need to remember the following:

Small RPAs, anywhere from 2 to 25kg, must, at all times, follow the SOP in flying drones. Flying medium-sized RPAS weighing 25 to 150kg over your land can only be done if you have a Remote Pilot Licence (RePL) and your aerial drone is registered with CASA.

How Do You Stay Out of Trouble While Flying Your Drone?

Aside from the obvious tips, like registering your drone and securing a licence, it also helps to follow these basic drone flying etiquette list:

Fly only for your drone’s intended purpose - Whether you’re filming an event or mapping a farm, make sure you’re only using the drone for its intended purpose. This will limit the chances of you incurring a violation.

Don’t fly over your neighbour's (or anyone else’s) property without permission - Currently, there are no laws that prevent you from doing this. But in the name of courtesy and to prevent any accidents or reports from disgruntled neighbours, avoid their property, especially if you have no permission from the owner.

Don’t take unauthorised pictures or videos - Sure, no regulations are preventing you from doing this. Still, private citizens can easily file a privacy complaint with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner against you. Penalties can go up to $10 million, so better safe than sorry. Or, in this case, completely broke.

Mind your surroundings - It’s all fun and games until you crash into animals, properties or worse, people. Even if you’re remotely controlling your drone, you will still be responsible for any damage or injury that you may cause. So exercise due diligence and always stay alert, so you don’t run (or fly) into trouble.

Avoid landmarks - Damaging and, in a way desecrating landmarks come with hefty fines as well as jail time. That’s such a steep consequence that you can easily prevent by steering away from landmarks, so make sure you only fly your drone if you have permission to do so.

Fly sober - You’ve heard it before - don’t drink and drive. Certain substances compromise your ability to make sound decisions as well as your coordination. The same applies to flying a drone. Drones are mechanical instruments that can cause significant damage and injuries when operated under the influence. So if you feel like you’re in no position to drive, then you’re in no place to fly either.

drone operator flying a P100 model drone

Ready to Fly?

Now that you know which drones you can fly without a licence, you can start enjoying your RPA. The rules for commercial drones are different, but they’re all anchored on the safety of the pilot as well as the people, animals and properties within the flying vicinity. If you have questions regarding drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, visit our website for more details.

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