Drones in Australia Guide

Your guide to working with drones in Australia
March 29, 2023

A general classification for modern drones

In the past decade, the word drone has grown in popularity, especially through the appearance of small drone toys.

The word refers to an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV meaning flying vehicles that don't have drivers.

This refers both to remote controlled flying vehicles and automated flights.

While we imagine a drone to be a small, fun toy, the original word UAV refers to something more serious that is used in warfare.

Throughout the twentieth century, countries focused on the development of drones for use in a military airbase.

As components got smaller, so did these drones, they started being used for aerial photography before getting to really small and compact toys.

The official classification ranks them in 5 groups depending on their weight.

We can however simplify the classification in three large groups.

DJI drones and Camera drones

Photo of a drone above a forest

These are what the public is most familiar with, working with small batteries, they often weight less than 1 kilogram and run for a couple of minutes, just enough to enjoy driving it.

Dji drones have become very famous in the past decade as it has brought small recreational drones to the public.

The brand focuses on quadctopers, high range and a live feed, most of the drones are already pretty advanced for a commercial product.

Other types are built for racing and come equipped with a live camera feed.

Commercial drones for aerial photography

Photo of a commercial drone in the sky

This next category is built for specific business purposes and provides a lot of very helpful features.

These come in all shapes in sizes, from camera drones, to waterproof drones and racing drones.

Farmers use them to map their fields, urban designers can gain new perspectives, firefighters use them to fight fires, and rescue operations can also use them to locate survivors and assess the occurred damages.

These are often larger and might have more than 4 propellers to provide more stability and thrust.

Modern drones are subject to drone laws and Australian drone laws have their own specificities.

As a rule of thumb, it's a good idea to know the drone regulations of the area you're flying in, these are often country and city specific.

Other types are built like wings for better autonomy.

In all cases, these require larger budgets and serve specific functions by gaining a new aerial perspective on the situation.

We'll focus on these two types as they cover the general public use cases.

Unmanned Aircraft or UAVs

Photo of a military drone (UAV) taking off

This category is very specific and applies to the aviation industry.

We won't focus on this category but keep in mind they do exist and are mainly used for reconnaissance purposes.

Most of the time, an unmanned aircraft is operated remotely by a drone pilot on the ground.

Commercial drone services

Drones have allowed several sectors to gain the benefits of flight.

These marvels' main feature is their ability for stationary flight.

Hovering over a structure helps the pilot take time to analyze the situation and make decisions by directly focusing on what he's seeing.

One very interesting use case of drones is in power grids.

Maintenance teams have started using them to do predictive maintenance, meaning they use drones to fly over their infrastructure and note any small problem they notice.

These are especially useful in remote or difficult to reach areas like a barrage or in a dense forest where special equipment would be required.

Drone regulations and Australian drone laws

Flying a drone means you're using the same airspace as civil aviation, in most cases, that's not a problem, in others this can get you in trouble.

Here are a few rules to follow to make sure you don't cause havoc.

  • Don't fly your drone over 120m or 400 feet above ground level (most drones have an option to set a height limit)
  • Keep your drone at least 30 meters away from other people
  • Keep your drone in sight and only fly one drone at a time
  • Only fly during the day and not through clouds or fog
  • Do not fly your drone near an emergency operation zone
  • Fly at least 5.5 Km away from a controlled airport
  • Don't fly over people, especially in dense areas
  • Respect people's privacy, do not record people without their consent

You can find the official rules on the Civil Aviation Safety Agency's rule website.

Do I need to register my drone

The rule is quite straightforward on this one.

If you intend to use your drone for business or as part of your job, you have to register it.

If your drone is under 500g, you won't pay a thing, is it's over, you'll have to buy the license for $40.

Check the Civil Aviation Safety Agency to register it.

DJI drones

DJI has established itself amongst leading brands, bringing quadcopters to the masses.

From the dji fpv drone, to the dji mini and other models, they've diversified the combos of battery life, flight times, and power.

Their principal innovation and the initial reason for their success was the introduction of the auto gimbal control.

An automated stability system to make drone shots incredibly fluid and undisturbed by the movements of the above propellers.

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