Crackdown on drone use | 7.30 - ABC News Australia

Crackdown on drone use | ABC News (Australia)

Crackdown on drone use

Australians have always been enthusiastic adopters of new technology. Hundreds of thousands of us now use drones. They let you take incredible photos and videos. But their widespread use has raced ahead of safety and privacy regulations and now there’s a crackdown.


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER:  Australians have always been enthusiastic adopters of new technology from colour TVs to iPhones.

Hundreds of thousands of us now use drones. They let you take incredible photos and videos, you would have seen some in that story but their widespread use has raced ahead of safety and privacy regulations and now there’s a crackdown.

Angelique Donnellan reports.

ANGELIQUE DONNELLAN, REPORTER:  Drones have revolutionised the way we see the world – from stunning aerial photography to surveying and search and rescue.

DOC BALDWIN, COMMERCIAL OPERATOR:  There’s that much beauty out there that we can’t see from the ground. Why not have a look at it from the air?

ANGELIQUE DONNELLAN:  Over the past decade numbers in Australia have grown exponentially.

PETER GIBSON, CASA:  The figures show us that there’s up to a million drones out there, possibly even slightly more.

ANGELIQUE DONNELLAN:  There are strict safety laws governing their use.

You can’t fly over people, near airports or at night but those rules aren’t always followed.

STEVE WILSON, PROTECTIVE GROUP:  I think technology is designed for good and, but I think in the hands of the wrong person it can be used for evil obviously.

PETER GIBSON:  There was a famous one at a hardware store where someone flew a drone to get a sausage sizzle. The risk there was that people in the car park could have been hit by the drone.

So we issued a penalty in that case. That cost that person almost $1,000.

Do the wrong thing with your drone and you’ll get a big hole in your pock.

ANGELIQUE DONNELLAN:  The Civil Aviation Safety Authority is cracking down on unsafe behaviour.

This equipment can detect drones being flown where they shouldn’t be.

CASA OPERATOR:  So the system is listening for any drones in our area of surveillance.

PETER GIBSON:  We do see people flying too close to other people, flying over, around crowds or groups of people and very commonly flying too close to airports.

ANGELIQUE DONNELLAN:  In June a Port Kembla man was fined almost $8,000 for flying too close to his neighbours.

They recorded the incident.

PETER GIBSON:  We issued 63 infringement notices last year. We’ve issued 43 so far this year and a number of others in train.

ANGELIQUE DONNELLAN:  But unless people are caught in the act or post their exploits online, it can be impossible to identify who owns the drone.

Starting next year, CASA is introducing compulsory registration of all drones over 250 grams.

PETER GIBSON:  We’ll be commencing that with people flying commercial drones, large commercial drones.

Then moving on to the smaller commercial drones.

When we’ve got that bedded down we’ll then move on to recreational drones. That’s, at this point, looking like being more like 2022.

ANGELIQUE DONNELLAN:  While CASA struggles with the logistics of such a huge undertaking, it’s also facing a backlash from commercial drone pilots.

DOC BALDWIN:  Unjustified, unneeded and totally unfair. It’s like an extra tax.

ANGELIQUE DONNELLAN:  Doc Baldwin owns a $6,000 drone and has spent thousands on training for his aerial photography business.

He argues the 17,000 commercial drone operators are not the problem.

DOC BALDWIN:  That means the safe pilots, the pilots that have done their courses, done their training, spent thousands of dollars getting to where they’re at, have to spend more money again.

Already registered, already licensed, already have all their details with CASA, registrations and serial numbers, the works. Now we’ve got to do it again.

ANGELIQUE DONNELLAN:  While CASA hasn’t settled on the registration fee, there’s widespread speculation commercial users will cop a $160 annual charge per drone, while hobby users will pay much less.

PETER GIBSON:  Obviously we’ve got to make it accessible for everybody who is flying a drone for fun.

If we make it too difficult or too daunting people simply will avoid it.

ANGELIQUE DONNELLAN:  Registration will make it easier to enforce the rules but CASA can’t stop people spying with a drone if there’s no safety risk.

PETER GIBSON:  Look, there are no specific privacy rules for drones.

The simple fact is drones, the technology was never thought of when the privacy laws were written.

So you don’t own the air space above your property, so you can’t stop aircraft, or drones for that matter, flying over it.

STEVE WILSON:  This drone was found at a lady’s property, being used by her former partner to be able to stalk her. He was actually taking photos through this drone while she was in her bedroom.

ANGELIQUE DONNELLAN:  Steve Wilson knows the challenges of getting a successful prosecution for an invasion of privacy.

He’s a former police detective who now runs a security firm helping domestic violence victims better protect themselves.

STEVE WILSON:  I probably expected it was going to be only a matter of time before someone would use a drone in such a pervasive way, yes.

ANGELIQUE DONNELLAN:  Privacy laws vary from state to state.

Queensland is currently looking at how its laws can be tightened to stop drone misuse.

STEVE WILSON:  The Federal Government needs to take a leadership role. Having legislation across the country that differs from state to state is absurd.

ANGELIQUE DONNELLAN:  In Canberra, concerns about privacy have led to a backlash against a CASA-approved drone delivery service run by Wing, a company owned by Google’s parent, Alphabet.

NEV SHEATHER:  People are very upset about the intrusiveness and invasion of a drone flying over the top of our heads especially when they have got cameras.

JAMES RYAN BURGESS, WING CEO:  Our camera is pointed straight down, you can’t emit it around, it’s low resolution, in black and white and it is just used for navigation.

ANGELIQUE DONNELLAN:  Residents are also complaining about the noise.

NEV SHEATHER:  The noise of a drone has been compared to an F1 racer or an out of control whipper snipper.

The negatives definitely outweigh the positives.

ANGELIQUE DONNELLAN:  But it seems we’ll all have to get used to more unmanned aircraft in Australian skies.

Uber is planning to trial an air taxi in Melbourne from next year and Wing is expanding its deliveries to Queensland using quieter drones.

PETER GIBSON:  Like any technology there is going to be challenges along the way.

JAMES RYAN BURGESS:  We think that this is a really high potential technology, especially as our cities grow and become more congested.

Drones can help alleviate some of that congestion on the ground while providing a great service.

Produced by ABC News (Australia). Aired Oct 2, 2019 on 7.30.