The Offences Lurking within Australia's New Drone Laws...
Published: 6 November 2019
“Ignorance of law excuses no one” – easier said than adhered to when the law is buried under confusing Acts, Regulations, and Manuals of Standards.
In an effort to alleviate this problem, we have tried to assist in respect of the new Australian drone regulations which create 20 new strict liability offences. A ‘strict liability’ offence, generally speaking, is where it does not matter whether or not you intended to break the law, the offending act alone is enough to be charged. There are a few technical defences but that’s a yarn for another post.
While there are 20 new offences, we have simplified, and where appropriate, merged the offences for ease of understanding into 14 areas below. The aim is simply to “give you the vibe” of these offences so you are less likely to be caught out: ‘forewarned is forearmed!’
As to timing, these offences won’t be enforceable until the drone registration and pilot accreditation regulations come into play which at this stage is sometime between April and October 2020 for RPA, and sometime in 2022 for Model Aircraft.
Before we kick-off, an important note on terminology:
[A] A drone operated commercially is a Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA).
[B] A drone weighing <=150kg flown for sport or recreation; or a drone weighing <=7kg flown for certain educational, training or research purposes is a Model Aircraft.
[C] Where we use the term ‘drone’, we refer to both RPA and Model Aircraft.
 If you act as a person’s agent in submitting an application for a remote pilot licence or a relevant authorisation, you must include a declaration that you have received the applicant’s declaration authorising you as agent, and you have prepared the application in accordance with the applicant’s information.
 If you authorise an agent to make a relevant application on your behalf, you must give the agent a signed declaration stating that the agent is authorised and that the information provided to the agent is true and correct.
 If you make or receive a declaration for a remote pilot licence or a relevant authorisation, you must keep a copy for 5 years (or as otherwise directed by CASA).
 Whether you’re an applicant or agent for a relevant declaration, if asked by a police officer or an authorised person, you must produce a copy of the relevant declaration for inspection.
 You must not operate, nor supervise a person under 16 years of age who is operating, an unregistered drone that is required to be registered.
 You must not operate, nor supervise a person under 16 years of age who is operating, a drone registered as a model aircraft but that is not a model aircraft.
 If operating a drone that is required to be registered, or supervising a person under 16 who is operating a drone that is required to be registered, you must comply with a demand from a police officer or an authorised person to produce a certificate of registration for that drone.
 If flying in a prescribed area – approved by CASA for a specific purpose – you must comply with the requirements for operations in the prescribed area.
 You must comply with any registration and identification requirements prescribed in a Manual of Standards.
 You must not modify your registered drone beyond the extent allowed in the Manual of Standards.
 If operating an RPA for which a remote pilot licence is required, you must produce a copy of your licence if asked by a police officer or an authorised person.
 In order to operate an excluded RPA or a micro RPA (<= 250g gross weight), you must have an excluded RPA accreditation or a remote pilot licence.
 In order to operate a model aircraft with a gross weight of more than 250g, you must be either accredited for the model aircraft, or accredited for an excluded RPA or micro RPA, or hold a remote pilot licence.
 If operating, or supervising the operation by a person under the age of 16, of an excluded RPA, a micro RPA or a model aircraft which requires authorisation in the form of either accreditation or the holding of a remote pilot licence, you must comply with a demand from a police officer or an authorised person to produce your accreditation or remote pilot licence.
With more red tape than at Bunnings, it pays to be aware and stay alert. While most of the above offences are common sense, there are a few tricky ones to keep in mind. On the other hand, maybe there is some bliss in ignorance.
The Drone Lawyer.
6 November 2019.