Sky is the limit in new industry

Tim Whybrow, of Launceston, with his DJI Phantom drone. Picture: PAUL SCAMBLERDRONES are set to be a hot Christmas present this year, but while people do not need a licence or approval to fly a drone for fun, they must follow the rules. MANIKA DADSON reports.

THE use of drones has escalated across Tasmania and hobbyists have been reminded that there are rules they need to follow.

Launceston videographer Tim Whybrow said not enough hobbyists knew the rules on flying unmanned aerial vehicles – a helicopter-like craft with GPS and cameras.

Drone rules are set by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and include: staying 5.5kilometres away from airports; not flying at night; keeping drones at least 30metres away from other people who are not involved in the footage; and not flying commercially without a licence.

Leichhardt Council in NSW became the first council in the country this month to ban the launching of drones in public parks and playgrounds within its local government area.

The move come after a toddler in Britain lost an eye after an out-of-control drone’s propeller sliced through his eyeball.

However, the council has admitted policing the new regulation will be difficult.

A Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment spokesman said it is investigating the potential impacts of amateur drone users and considering how best to manage those impacts.

Mr Whybrow said he started flying drones as a hobbyist about two years ago with a cheap CX 10 drone, before getting his commercial licence late last year.

To get his commercial licence, he had to do training on the mainland through CASA.

Mr Whybrow got his Remote Pilot Certificate and Aircraft Radio Operator Certificate through the training, and now works under Overall Photography’s UAV Operator’s Certificate as a contractor.

Commercial operators need the licences, which can cost more than $10,000, to make money off their footage.

Mr Whybrow said learning to fly a drone was similar to controlling a remote-control car.

‘‘If you’re just flying in GPS mode, the drone assists you quite a lot,’’ he said.

‘‘You can go to an altitude and the drone just stays there.

‘‘But operating it solely on manual mode is quite tricky because you have to keep your altitude and also move around your picture.

‘‘To do your training, you need to do everything in manual.

‘‘You need lots of practice, so if anything was to go wrong, you have the ability to bring it back home and land it safely.’’

Mr Whybrow said a lot of multitasking came into operating drones manually.

‘‘It gets complicated when you’re trying to concentrate on your framing, as well as where your aircraft is,’’ he said.

‘‘Sometimes you’re just more focused on keeping the drone up in the air and hoping that the footage comes out okay.’’

Mr Whybrow said his commercial work had picked up so much in the past year that in 2016 he will fly his DJI Phantom 3 Professional drone full-time through his company Prime Perspectives.

Most of his commercial work is providing aerial footage of properties and boundary lines to real estate agencies.

Commercial operators are given a little more leniency when it comes to flying unmanned aircraft.

‘‘Technically, hobbyists might be breaking the law if they fly over a private property,’’ Mr Whybrow said.

‘‘But commercial UAVs can fly over properties.

‘‘There’s no difference between a commercial UAV flying over a property as there is an aeroplane flying over your property to get to the airport.

‘‘Our general rule of thumb is we don’t take any photos of anybody that may invade their privacy.’’

Mr Whybrow said as a hobbyist he only flew in open spaces that were ‘‘well clear of obstacles and that are away from the airport and power lines’’.

When Mr Whybrow flies his drone in Launceston, he always ensures he gets clearance from the Launceston Tower.

CASA corporate communication manager Peter Gibson said about 300 commercial licences had been approved throughout Australia.

Another 200 are waiting to be approved, he said.

Mr Gibson said the fact that technology was much more accessible and that drone prices have dropped were reasons why drones had become more popular.

‘‘It is fair to say there will be thousands more drones in the sky after Christmas,’’ he said.

He said one company expected to sell between 5000 and 10,000 units.

People caught breaching CASA rules can be fined between $800 and $9000.

Commercial operators who break the rules can have their licences suspended or cancelled.

‘‘We don’t want to stop people from having fun with them,’’ Mr Gibson said.

‘‘But we want people to understand that there are risks and rules they need to follow.’’

Most drones come will a ‘‘flying with control, get to know the rules’’ flyer.

The Examiner

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