Farmers, miners, builders, real estate agents, media, scientists
and police increasingly find drones useful. They can find
livestock, spot needed repairs on bridges and buildings, take
aerial photos of open cut mines, take glossy pictures from the air
of property for sale, assist rescue operations, help in searches
for missing folk, take high elevation pictures of landscapes and
wildlife, track Antarctic ice floes and pursue baddies on the
But drones can also be a pest that invade privacy such as taking
sneaky pictures of celebrity weddings, breach security of factories
or farms, pose dangers to low flying aircraft such as helicopters,
collide with birds and cause injury if they land on your head.
One 18 year old in the US attached a gun to his drone and fired
at a target – something Connecticut police said wasn't
illegal but should be. In Sydney a drone crashed into the harbour
bridge alerting counter terrorism officers and firefighters also
complain they are interfering with their operations.
In Australia aviation authorities acknowledge drones with
cameras are now a fact of life and are everywhere. Until recently
the cost of around $2000 has kept the numbers of drones down, but
now drones are much cheaper. Aldi shops are selling them for
Until now only recreational users could fly drones without a
licence, and they have to weigh less than two kilos. Aviation
regulations says drones have to be kept 30 metres from people, away
from crowds, stay below 400 feet (122 metres) and kept five
kilometres from airports.
If drones are used for a commercial purpose, operators need a
licence and have to state what the drone will be used for.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority is looking to relax these
rules and allow commercial operators to fly drones without a
licence. This will see the use of drones boom, especially by people
chasing footage of police and fire operations.
But privacy laws are way behind the use of drones to peek over
walls and into windows. So long as the drone operator is on public
land he can't be charged with trespass.
The law isn't totally clear on whether drones can fly over
private property without permission apart from the aerial safety
regulations on the need to keep a distance. Privacy laws just
haven't kept up with the technology and CASA says privacy laws
are outside its orbit.
Drone laws are likely to be tested when a person sees a drone
taking pictures through their bedroom window and demands the law
protect them from the intrusion. Either that or they just shoot the
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This decision will be significant to aviation industry participants in assessing whether claimants in the context of international or domestic carriage by air have commenced claims in an appropriate forum in Australia.
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