Using drones in Adelaide

Using Drones in Australia

I like to think of myself as an innovator and a professional photographer always on the cutting edge of what I can offer my clients. Both in wedding photography and in Fine Art photography so I have been looking into becoming accredited as a professional UAV (drone) pilot. However, using drones in Adelaide in a commercial sense is becoming quite the exercise in red tape. You may remember that I wrote a blog post earlier in the year announcing my coming ability to offer drone wedding photography, however due to a couple of reasons I’m not able to do so in the near future, but I may be able to in around 6 months. The first reason being that the drone I had bought is no longer being made due to the company collapsing, and the second being that using drones in Adelaide, and Australia as a whole requires a huge amount of training and certification.

This blog post is written as a reference point for any other prospective wedding photographers considering using drones in Adelaide to augment their services. Hopefully this will help you understand what I have to do and what you’d have to do if you want to be using drones in Adelaide in a commercial sense.

Using Drones in Australia

This information is current as of 18th November 2015 and is direct from CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority)

First of all, it would be completely legal of me to go out and buy a professional standard drone and start flying it about taking pictures and videos with it, as long as I follow a few set of directives set out by the CASA.

The rules are simple:

• Stay at least 30 metres away from people with your drone.
• Keep your drone under 400 feet (121.92m).
• You may not operate your drone above a large gathering of people (e.g.: at sporting events, over crowds at the beach or groups of protesters).
• You must keep your drone within sight while you’re operating it.
• You may not operate your drone within 5km of an airport and a place where planes take off or land from.

If you violate these rules, CASA can take action against you in the form of infringement notices (read: fines) up to $8500 per offence. If you put people at risk or seriously injure someone, the penalties are far more serious and will be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Now as I wish to use my drone as a wedding photographer, I would be quite quickly violating some of these rules, in particular being within 30m of other people and usually within 5km of ANY active airport. This can include any helipad or such place.

And one point that many other website tend to keep out is that if you operate your drone for any commercial gain you must

  • Obtain a UAV Controller Certificate, and
  • A UAV Operators Certificate.

The regulations don’t stop there, either,  commercial operators of drones need explicit approval from CASA before you can even leave the ground  and the approval involves filing several important documents with the regulator weeks in advance of your wedding, including a flight plan and copies of your certifications.

There are reports on the net that a relaxation of laws using drones commercially is just around the corner, however proposed amendments to Part 101 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 to permit the operation of a UAV under 2kg for commercial operations if certain conditions are met, without the need to be authorised by an Operating Certificate or controller certificate are not expected before mid 2016. However, these relaxations of the law STILL require you to follow the above rules, but you’re just allowed to make money doing so and you also have no need for filing all that paperwork every time you fly.

These qualifications are worth in excess of $5500 and take upwards of 6 months to be processed. Then you also have to buy a drone worthy of your talent as a wedding photographer, so I’d be in the market for quite a decent drone.

You probably understand now why using drones in Adelaide as a wedding photographer is still a rare thing when compared to places like Hawaii, where drones are hovering over couples right across Waikiki during their wedding photography. I’m still keen on becoming one of the first Adelaide Wedding photographers to offer drone wedding photography, so hopefully I’ll be using drones in Adelaide sooner rather than later.

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