Senate Enquiry into the flying of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAS) "Drones"
The flying of Multi Rotor aircrafts, commonly referred to as "Drones", is a fast growing aspect of our sport/hobby and is growing faster than any other discipline. Other disciplines have been adopted in a slow and steady manner; but this is not the case with the introduction of multi rotors. Combined with the rapidly growing development in technology, there has been an explosion in the take up of multi rotor flying. In the past, one needed to learn to fly and save to purchase or build a model. These developments evolved slowly and in line with conventions of the day. This is not the case with multi-rotors, which are now available in most departmental stores at very affordable prices.
The introduction of multi rotors is great for our hobby/sport as it opens avenues for increased membership and increased enjoyment in our sport. With every plus however, there is a minus. The ease of flying multi rotors has brought with it challenges we all must face. Issues such as the invasion of privacy, interference with full size aircraft and illegal flying to name a few.
Commercial operators have also entered into the mix and as such the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has seen fit to introduce regulations which ensure these persons also operate in a safe regulated manner. These regulations came into effect on the 29th of September and were aimed at reducing the cost and legal requirements for lower-risk commercial remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) operations. The new regulations for licensing are based on the weight of the aircraft. Operators of any aircraft under 2 kilograms were still required to obtain a permit from CASA but not required to complete the rigorous testing if they comply with stated conditions. These amendments do not relate to the recreational use of model aircraft.
As a consequence of concerns raised by airline pilots, airline operators, Air Services and perhaps current commercial operators, the Federal Senate has moved to put on hold the introduction of the new regulations pending the outcome of a Senate Committee Investigation relative to safety implications of the new regulations. The terms of reference for the committee investigation however goes further than the proposed new regulations and includes the use of model aircraft for sport and recreation. i.e. they will examine amongst other things:
the existing industry and likely future social and economic impact of RPAS technologythe potential recreational and commercial uses of RPAS, including agriculture, mining, infrastructure assessment, search and rescue, fire and policing operations, aerial mapping and scientific research;insurance requirements of both private and commercial users/operators, including consideration of the suitability of existing data protection, liability and insurance regimes, and whether these are sufficient to meet growing use of RPAS;
Similar enquiries have been and are currently being conducted in other parts of the world including Europe, Great Britain and USA.
The move by the FAA to significantly restrict activity and require the registration of ‘drones’ has been a fairly well publicised move with (limited) consultation and input from the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics). Any outcome from this move is yet to be verified.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) received a submission during their meeting in September 2015 on behalf of all model flyers within Europe, essentially arguing that model flying should not be subject to any additional regulation and should be left to each European Member State to regulate (as per the current situation).
FAI/CIAM, responsible for competition and records for UAVs (Drones), is also encouraging member countries, through their NACs, to actively engage and work with their regulatory bodies to protect airspace for sport and recreation aviation activities.
Some countries have even gone to the extent of banning all types of RPA’s including model aircraft. All is not gloom and doom however, the MAAA has been invited by the Senate Committee to provide a submission and perhaps present oral evidence.
The MAAA’s current position is that we, as an organisation, strongly support the proposition that model aircraft and other RPAS flying must be safe, within the law, must never endanger full size aircraft aviation or interfere with the safety of other persons. However we do not support any reduction in the manner in which our clubs and members operate within the current regulatory framework and exemptions provided by CASA.
The Executive is currently in discussion with our legal advisers and are preparing a written submission for presentation. The written submission will not only represent the view of our members but will also seek to preserve the rights of all aeromodellers in Australia. Submissions must be presented by the 15th of December and the Committee enquiry completed by the end of April 2017.
In the meantime, we will continue to keep members informed of the progress.