You'll Soon Need A Licence To Fly A Drone In Australia

For the first time, owners of recreational drones will soon have to register their little aircraft and acquire a "flyer's licence" before taking to the skies.

A national registration and accreditation scheme, run by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, will take effect in July this year to keep a closer eye on the increasingly popular -- but sometimes dangerous -- activity.

Owners of any recreational drone weighing more than 250 grams will have to pass an online education course and register their drone, CASA spokesperson Peter Gibson told 10 daily.

"A very short and simple online course which will mainly be a video of safety rules and responsibilities plus a quiz," Gibson said.

"You're not talking hours, maybe 15 to 20 minutes all up to complete the course. This will mean that everybody with a drone, commercial and recreational, will be registered and have a flyer's license with us."

Image: Getty

A log of who is flying what will be kept in a database, providing for the first time a clear idea of how many drones are in Australian skies.

CASA estimates there are close to 100,000 drones in Australia, but the number is impossible to pin down without an official registry.

"We think that'll bring safety benefits because for the first time we'll know who's out there flying drones, where they're flying, what they're flying," Gibson said.

"And they'll have done a short course on the safety rules and acknowledged their safety responsibilities."

CASA issued just over 60 fines last year to people who broke drone safety rules.

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Among the regulations for flying a recreational drone, pilots are not allowed to fly higher than 120 metres above the ground, or to fly over groups of people (such as at a beach or park), or fly drones within 30 metres of other people.

Gibson also said the aviation authority does receive reports from pilots of drones flying too close to commercial aircraft.

"The bulk of people are doing the right thing," he said.

"But there are some issues. The really increasing number of drones out there and the capability of even relatively cheap drones now means that we just need to this additional step to start putting a bit more of a rigorous framework around the safe operation of drones."

The cost of registration for recreational drones is estimated to be around $20 annually per person.

IMAGE: AAP, Joel Carrett

Drone technology has well and truly lifted off in Australia in recent times, not just for recreational purposes but professionally in a number of industries -- from camerawork to safety monitoring and surveillance.

Over Christmas, 51 drones were deployed to help lifesavers identify problems in NSW waters.

On the other hand, a trial of fast-food delivery by unmanned aircraft launched in Canberra last year has been getting attention for all the wrong reasons, as residents complain about noise pollution, privacy concerns and disruption to wildlife as a result of the machines.