Australia’s aviation safety authority will establish a “flyer’s licence” and mandatory registration for drones from July this year, coinciding with a world-first drone food delivery business to be run out of Canberra.
For the first time, anyone in Australia who wants to fly a drone will have to be accredited by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, making it easier for police to track down miscreants.
“It will certainly give us big advantages in terms of complaints or reports of drones being flown improperly or against the safety rules,” CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said.
We’ll have a starting point to know who flies drones in that area, what sort of drone they fly.”
Prospective flyers of drones weighing more than 250 grams will need to pass an online education course and register their drone, according to policy documents prepared by CASA.
Flyer data would be kept in a database, finally allowing Australian authorities to get a picture of how many drones are flown in Australia, who is flying them and where.
“For the first time we’ll have an overall picture of the drone sector … probably there are tens of thousands, possibly even 100,000, but at this point we don’t know,” Mr Gibson said.
CASA said the cost of registration would vary for different types of drones and whether they were used for fun or profit.
It estimated it would cost $20 annually per person for recreational drones and for some model aircraft operators.
The annual fee for each commercial drone would likely range from $100 to $160.
World-first delivery service to begin in Canberra
CASA is still developing a full real-time network that can track drones like it does aircraft.
But it said, with operators like Google preparing to launch skyward in Australia, it needed to be ready for a complicated network of drones flying above Australia’s cities.
Google’s parent company Alphabet last year began trialling the use of drones to deliver burritos, coffee and medication in a suburb on the fringes of Canberra.
It has now built a permanent warehouse headquarters in the more central suburb of Mitchell, under the name Project Wing, where it plans to begin its first ongoing commercial operation – once CASA approves it.
Like any commercial operator, Google is already licensed to fly by the safety authority.
But as the drone industry rapidly grows, CASA said it needed to develop a system to manage all flyers, including those doing it just for fun.
“Clearly the unmanned traffic system is the key to safe and efficient drone operations, and all the players that are working in these areas are developing their own systems,” Mr Gibson said.
“We are working on that already … it’s not simple.”
In an inquiry into drone delivery in the ACT, community groups have strongly objected to the technologies, saying their noise moved locals to tears.
That inquiry continues on Wednesday.