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Jun 21, 2014

US ban for national park drones contrasts to AU indifference

America has moved closer to banning the use of all drones within National Parks and other defined wilderness and conservation areas as Australia seems poised to ignore the problem a

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

Yosemite NP in California, where drones will no longer fly free: file photo

America has moved closer to banning the use of all drones within National Parks and other defined wilderness and conservation areas as Australia seems poised to ignore the problem and allow light weight devices to be flown anywhere.

This report in The Guardian focuses on the very real negatives the use of agile light weight drones could have on wildlife as well as park users, including rock climbers half way up El Capitan or Half Dome in Yosemite, to use a high profile example of the problem.

But in Australia the period for public submissions on a proposed Civil Aviation Safety Authority ruling not to regulate drone of less than two kg weight has expired, with expectations that CASA and the Minister will embrace the chaos, and the maiming, damaging and even loss of life that is expected to ensue as the popularity of light weight drones costing small change ‘takes off’.

Hopefully those expectations are wrong. Australia’s airports have made strong representations against leaving light weight drones unregulated, yet the problem goes way beyond Tullamarine or Kingsford Smith. It extends into road tunnels, rail lines, the open road, the open windows, sports venues and shopping malls.

It extends into terrorism. Australia’s police, intelligence, and transport safety authorities, must act to mandate personal responsibility and trackability for individually operated drone flights.

A popular quad copter drone, the Aeryon Scout

It is possible through enforced micro-dot and RFID technology to make the ownership and use of such devices trackable.

And as a drone enthusiast urged in a previous article on Plane Talking, a mandatory education program concerning user responsbilities and the law on the purchase of such a device would be desirable, and no harder to manage than the basic requirements of being a licensed motorist. 

Drones are unstoppable in terms of their industrial, agricultural and safety applications.  They are already used with great care to monitor wildlife populations and land care status in many parts of the world. They can find missing people and provide instant information essential for better disaster management.  The beneficial applications keep coming. The issue is how to ensure that responsibility and opportunity coincide, rather than diverge, causing avoidable tragedies.

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12 thoughts on “US ban for national park drones contrasts to AU indifference

  1. COTOS

    Thanks casa, & hopefully its still legal to point lasers at drones then.

  2. Tango

    This is another area that is turning into a petulance.

    Good for the Park Service.

    Someone comes up with the technology and then allowed to sell these things un-regulated.

    Rather than turn them loose they should have to go through regulated approval before they are allowed to.

    Like chemicals, prove they are safe before you turn them loose on the public (and license requirements to go with them) .

    I don’t care so much about the surveillance thing (thats short term and easily resolved) but they are damned dangerous.

    FAA needs to prosecute these to get it stopped. Operated should have to be licensed (or anything below 500 feet is fair game for a shotgun)

    Its going to be a mess for a long time and at some point some idiot will run one into an airplane and cause a crash.

  3. Dan Dair

    I’ve edited & re-posted a contribution originally posted on 20-05-14.

    IMO this is something which the Government should be ensuring is dealt with from the ‘supply-end’.
    When an item is purchased it MUST have basic operating instructions & USE instructions with it.
    It MUST also have clear & bold information relating to a training & registration scheme, when it happens.

    It should be the law that these items can not be sold or even brought into the country, without full labelling. This will stop people buying online from overseas sellers, as they could then be prosecuted for breaking Australian import regulations.

    I agree with those who’ve suggested a compulsory operators course.
    An online one would suffice, but I would also suggest a registration of operators to go with it.
    In this scenario a purchaser of one of these things MUST undertake & pass the online course, then register their details on the database. (If they buy another drone they must register it, but can enter the certificate number for the course they’ve already passed)
    That way, in the event of an incident an owner / operator of a drone will already have had the minimum awareness that their actions may have consequences, to which they will probably be held liable.

    I would secondarily suggest that the owners/operators clubs be engaged to help promote registration & ‘best practise’ amongst their users.

    I can also imagine a club-based insurance scheme being set-up to help cover the liabilities in the event of an unfortunate incident. (Something like what cricket & golf-clubs have, to cover them for broken windows, to car-accidents & personal injuries as a result of stray-balls.?)

    I can see no sensible reason why CASA couldn’t oversee a certification & registration process, even if it were all via an online system.
    I would also think that manufacturers & retailers could be prevailed upon to subscribe to this system & possibly fund it.?

    In the event of a major incident, if the actual culprit IS a ‘yahoo’, I’m sure the lawyers for the injured parties would quickly start to look at the possibilities of suing the manufacturers or retailers for ‘knowingly’ putting a ‘hazardous device’ in the hands of an ‘untrained’ & ‘irresponsible’ individual.?
    So by assisting with training & registration, manufacturers & suppliers would actually be helping to protect themselves from the consequences of irresponsible users.

  4. comet

    It would not take much effort to make drones trackable via GPS.

    Many of them already have GPS on board. All it needs is the addition of a mobile data transmitter to relay that information.

    Then there could be a national web page to show the location of every drone. In real time.

  5. Dan Dair

    Re: my posting #3,
    I’ve added the link to that original article as it’s not listed in ‘related articles’.

  6. gearsau

    Yosemite and Half Dome….. Its on the” Bucket List “

  7. Ben Sandilands

    Yosemite is best visited these days in the lesser traveled times, such as September/October before it starts to get seriously chilly.

    Get acquainted with the bear rules, never forget seeing a big round brown bear remove the door of a VW in about two seconds after it sussed out food inside! It was about the size of the car, or so it seemed at that somewhat transfixing moment, caught in the beams of our headlamps as we came down in the dark after a climb.

    If you do go to Yosemite also go further and seek the Tuolumne Meadows. You will find yourself in a sublimely beautiful place, the still soul of a world so unlike the one we live in that you might wonder if it is the same world.

  8. Kate Demonstration

    Much more comfortable than taking photographs from the hopper of a crop-duster.

    But a problem that needs discussing is crashing – see…

    It seems the military drones have 2 operators, using identical ‘consoles’ that can run in either ‘pilot’ or ‘weapons’ mode.

    At least one crash in continental USA was caused because the console was in the wrong mode.

  9. Allan Moyes

    Ben’s advice is sound. Yosemite must be one of the most beautiful places on earth. See it before the pollution from as far away as LA dims the view!

    With regard to Australia’s indifference re drones, I expect nothing else from the current government, I’m afraid. Their only policy is to blame the previous government for everything from budget “black holes” to the fact that it rained on my way home today. Oh, and to get re-elected. I doubt if “drones” even make their radar.

  10. Richard Scott

    Point of purchase tracking won’t solve the problem. I’m not a drone enthusiast, but I know a few. Many of them build their ‘aircraft’ from scratch using imported parts. Cheaper and more interesting than buying them off the shelf. But the capability of those home-made craft is a bit scary.

  11. Dan Dair

    Richard Scott,

    I’d venture to suggest that the kind of people that build their own drones would, for the most part, probably not be the ones who are most at risk from not being able to control their aircraft, nor likely to attempt to fly in inappropriate places.

    Additionally, similarly-minded users things would probably begin with a ready-built drone or a complete kit-in-a-box to get started….. & that’s where the warnings & information would be communicated to them.

    The issue here is not use, per se.

    It is all about inappropriate use which might;
    a/ Cause some kind of incident/accident
    b/ Attempt some action of invasion of privacy or similar act.

    A legitimate hobby or business user ought to have no issues in complying with user registration & rules of safe operation.
    (or perhaps showing that they have insurances in place to cover mishaps.?)

  12. derrida derider

    Groan. Yes of course the nuisance factor from some small drones and the safety factor from all large ones means some regulation is called for.

    But PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t mention the “t” word in this context, because as soon as “terrorism” is mentioned a good part of the populace seems perfectly happy to hand over control of their lives to deeply selfinterested security types. All sense of proportion, all concern for personal liberty and all risk management principles just fly out the window.

    I have no doubt that my kids will soon need to undergo police screening and a $5000 course before they’re allowed to run a $50 15cm long remote helicopter (less dangerous than the traditional kite) down at the local park.