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It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane!

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane!

Here's what you need to know next time you take Lily out for a stroll. An insight into the legal landscape of the drone industry.

22nd October 2015
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Friday 23 October 2015

The latest trend in the soaring tech industry has been up in the air for some time now, and it has to do with the cloud (or clouds).

Drones have been around since WWII, but only till recent times, companies have started creating and commercialising civilian drones that aids our unmanned world. Google and Amazon are pioneering drone deliveries, just as the US launched a task force to look into drone regulation, which may include a Drone Registry.

Drone funding hit an all time high in Q3 of 2015, rounding off over $300 million of equity financing in the drone industry this year. With creations like Lily, a drone that follows you around, there’s no surprise that drones have caught the eye of investors.

What does the legal landscape hold for the drone industry?

Mi CASA es su CASA

CASA, or the Civil Aviation Safety Authority for long, is in charge of flying machines in Australia. Part of its portfolio includes drones (or Remotely Piloted Aircrafts), and setting rules around safely using them.

The rules that apply are different depending on the purpose of your drone use, and you should fall within one of two categories: commercial use or civil/hobbyist use.

Commercial use of drones

If you are using drones for business purposes, you are required by CASA to undergo certification and earn an Operator’s Certificate unless your drone is under 2 kgs. The certification demonstrates that you can fly a drone safely, and know the relevant regulations.

The commercial use of drones is defined very broadly; for example, if you are a freelance wedding photographer using a drone to get the best angles, you are using it for a commercial purpose.

You can apply to be an RPA Operator here.


There are several strict rules accompanying the joy of taking your drone for its first flight.

They include keeping your drone in line of sight, more than 30 metres away from people, boats, vehicles and buildings, away from populated areas and under 120 metres in height in most cities.

These rules are strictly enforced by CASA. A Victorian man was slapped with a $850 fine for flying his drone within 30 metres of people during a police operation, which crashed after hitting a power line. In a separate case, a drone hit a woman running a marathon, and its operator was fined $1,700 for flying within 30 metres of a person.

Steer clear of breaching the rules.

Here is an easy-to-read guide by CASA on the drone rules for recreational purposes.

And the interweb isn’t short of drone jokes:

Don’t know where to start?
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Dominic Woolrych

Dominic is the CEO of Lawpath, dedicating his days to making legal easier, faster and more accessible to businesses. Dominic is a recognised thought-leader in Australian legal disruption, and was recognised as a winner of the 2015 Australian Legal Innovation Index.