Flying drones in parks and reserves

Flying drones in parks and reserves is a topic that is often open to debate. While the footage created can often be stunning and provide a new perspective on parks and trails, many believe they are an annoyance to the public and can ruin the experience for others who are trying to escape into a more natural setting. The is also the impact to flora and fauna to consider as inappropriately flown drones can disturb the environment and wildlife.

For example, Wedge-tailed Eagles, often found in our parks and reserves, are particularly sensitive to disturbance and are affected by human activities. If a nesting eagle perceives a disturbance (visible or audible) as a threat, even from hundreds of metres away, it may leave its eggs or chicks at risk of cold, heat and predation. It may desert its nest site for years and long after the disturbance has ceased.

There seems to be much confusion around the legalities of flying drones in public parks and reserves. It is easy to understand why confusion exists as the policies and regulations are not straightforward. To illustrate this, here’s an example of the policies in Victoria’s Parks. Other states have different rules so before flying a drone, it’s best to check the current policy position of land managers in that state.

Flying drones in Parks Victoria managed parks and reserves

Parks Victoria acknowledge this is a complex topic as Parks Victoria does not manage the airspace, however there are specific regulations within the National park regulations 2013 that prohibits the launch and land of an aircraft in our managed parks/reserves. In this case this regulation would not be breached if launching or landing outside the park. However, this particular action/activity will be at risk of breaching other acts and regulations such as interfering with animals or disturbing devices and the general public (park visitors) and The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 which have regulations in place for protection of Flora and Fauna.

For the above mentioned reasons Parks Victoria does not permit recreational drone use within its managed parks and all the relevant documentation are required to be completed and submitted to [email protected] to obtain the relevant permits to conduct such activity within our parks. If you require any further information please visit our website www.parks.vic.gov.au

Flying drones in DELWP managed parks and reserves

National Parks, State Parks, Marine and Coastal parks are managed by Parks Victoria. The following information relates to using a drone in State Forest which DELWP does manage. Keeping in mind different conditions/restrictions may apply to land under Committee of Management and land managed by Parks Victoria as mentioned above.

According to DELWP, you can use recreational drones in State forests in Victoria although there are additional land manager regulations that also apply. For example, in State forest (under the Forests (Recreation) Regulations 2010) it is an offence to behave in a manner likely to cause to be a nuisance to any person or cause danger or injury to any person. Essentially, members of the public wishing to fly drones should remember that people come to State forests to relax and enjoy nature; use your drone responsibly, avoid annoying other people, and you should be okay.

If you require clarification or have a further enquiry, do not hesitate to contact the the DELWP Customer Service Centre on 136 186 between 8am – 6pm weekdays or email : [email protected]

CASA Drone Rules

Use of drones is largely regulated by CASA in the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998. Extensive information is available from the CASA website at www.casa.gov.au/modelaircraft on the rules you must follow. Australia’s recreational drone rules are designed to keep you and others safe, on the ground and in the air. Here are the rules you need to know now, before you take-off.

Rules for recreational drone operators

  • You must not fly your drone higher than 120 metres (400 feet) above ground level
  • You must keep your drone at least 30 metres away from other people
  • You must only fly one drone at a time
  • You must keep your drone within visual line-of-sight. This means always being able to see the drone with your own eyes (rather than through a device, screen or goggles)
  • You must not fly over or above people or in a populous area. This could include beaches, parks, events, or sport ovals where there is a game in progress
  • Respect personal privacy. Don’t record or photograph people without their consent – this may breach other laws
  • If your drone weighs more than 250 grams, you must fly at least 5.5 kilometres away from a controlled airport, which generally have a control tower at them. Use a drone safety app to find out where you can and can’t fly
  • You must not operate your drone in a way that creates a hazard to another aircraft, person or property
  • You must only fly during the day and you must not fly through cloud or fog
  • You must not fly your drone over or near an area affecting public safety or where emergency operations are underway. This could include situations such as a car crash, police operations, a fire or firefighting efforts, or search and rescue
  • If you’re near a helicopter landing site or smaller aerodrome without a control tower, you can fly your drone within 5.5 kilometres. If you become aware of manned aircraft nearby, you must manoeuvre away and land your drone as quickly and safely as possible
  • If you intend to fly your drone for or at work (commercially), there are extra rules you must follow. You will also need to register your drone and get a licence or accreditation.

Where can I fly?

To better understand where you can fly, download a CASA-verified drone safety app to find out where you can and can’t fly your drone.

Report unsafe flying

While none of us wants to dob in someone else, if you believe you’ve seen someone breaking the rules, you can report it to CASA. Fines of up to $1,110 can be issued per offence. If the matter is taken to court, fines of up to $11,100 can be imposed.

As mentioned above, the rules are complex but when you cut through the various regulations, the bottom line for those of us planning to use a drone to record our hikes is:

  • You can’t fly a drone in or over parks or reserves managed by Parks Victoria (regardless of where you launch)
  • You can fly in parks and reserves managed by DELWP
  • Use your drone responsibly
  • Avoid impacting flora and fauna
  • Avoid annoying other people, and you should be okay.

 

Image: Jason Blackeye – Unsplash

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