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How councils can use and manage drones (Remotely Piloted Aircraft)

The Queensland Drones Strategy (QDS) was released in 2018 to support the vision that Queensland is a world-leader in drone technology and application.

The QDS includes two objectives to assist councils:

  • improving local government service delivery through use of drones
  • supporting community-friendly policies for the use of drones across local government areas.

To help councils address these actions, the department has identified examples of good practice in policy and procedure to assist in service delivery and options to manage drone use in public spaces through local laws.

The model policies are strictly limited to the use or regulation of drones within council controlled roads and areas. It is recommended that councils seek independent advice if considering use or regulation of drones in other areas (e.g. private property) within their areas.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has responsibility for the regulation of all commercial and recreational drone use within Australia and councils should ensure that drone use, whether by a council or a member of the public, complies with CASA requirements.

It is recommended that councils intending to use drones in service delivery or manage recreational use in controlled areas have a thorough understanding of the CASA regulations.

Use of drones in council service delivery

Councils can improve the efficiency and economy of service delivery through drone technology. To do so, it is recommended councils implement a safe and effective framework for their use by adopting sound policies and procedures.

A model organisational policy (DOC, 272KB) and a model organisational guideline (DOC, 276KB)  for drone use have been made available by the Sunshine Coast Regional Council. These resources are suitable for adoption, either wholly or in part, by other councils. Councils may wish to modify the models as required to suit their own circumstances.

The department acknowledges the valuable advice and assistance of the Sunshine Coast Regional Council in providing its resources and expertise and for allowing publication of the documents to assist other councils.

Recreational use of drones in council controlled areas

Most importantly, recreational users of drones are required to comply with all applicable CASA rules.

Local laws are regarded as an effective additional tool to regulate and enforce recreational drone usage in council controlled areas, such as parks and other open space.

Two different approaches using local laws have been identified to manage recreational drone use by the public.

Option 1

This option is currently adopted by the Sunshine Coast Regional Council and other councils and regulates recreational drone use under Local Law No 1 (Administration) 2011, as defined in Schedule 2, Part 2, Undertaking regulated activities on local government controlled areas and roads.

The local law prescribes that launching or landing a model aircraft weighing more than 500 grams or a remotely piloted aircraft weighing more than 500 grams, other than an unmanned balloon or unmanned kite is undertaking a regulated activity on local government controlled areas and roads.

Option 2

Recreational drone use is regulated by the Logan City Council under its Local Law No 5 (Parks, Jetties and Boat Ramps) 2011, Section 11, Regulated conduct in a park.

The local law prescribes that a person must not, unless authorised by a permit, a sign exhibited in the park or a subordinate local law, use a park for the purpose of operating a remote or guideline controlled aircraft propelled by a combustion engine or electric motor.

Using local laws to regulate drone usage

Key issues for consideration may include (but are not limited to):

  • whether an existing local law is amended, or a drone-specific local law is needed
  • managing potential risks to community safety
  • ensuring that local laws are not inconsistent with CASA regulations
  • whether permits are required for recreational use
  • defining the scope and nature of the regulatory regime:
    • any restrictions on certain parts of council controlled areas where drone use is permitted or not permitted
    • times when use is permitted
    • restrictions on the weight of a drone or how it is powered to determine whether it is regulated.

CASA know your drone rules

  • You must only fly during the day and keep your drone within visual line-of-sight. This means being able to see the aircraft with your own eyes (rather than through a device) at all times.
  • You must not fly your drone higher than 120 metres (400 feet) above the ground.
  • You must keep your drone at least 30 metres away from other people.
  • You must not fly your drone over or near an area affecting public safety or where emergency operations are underway (without prior approval). This could include situations such as a motor vehicle accident, police operations, a fire and associated firefighting efforts and search and rescue.
  • You must only fly one drone at a time.
  • You must not fly over or above people. This could include beaches, parks, events or sport ovals where there is a game in progress.
  • If your drone weighs more than 100g, you must keep at least 5.5 kilometres away from controlled aerodromes. Flying within 5.5 kilometres of a non-controlled aerodrome or helicopter landing site (HLS) is possible, but only if no manned aircraft are operating to or from the aerodrome. If you become aware of manned aircraft operating to or from the aerodrome or HLS, you must maneouver away from the aircraft and land as soon as safely possible.
  • You must not operate your drone in a way that creates a hazard to another aircraft, person or property.
  • You must respect personal privacy. This means you cannot record or photograph people without their consent as this may breach state laws.

Last updated: Monday, Nov 30, 2020