A major focus point of my research will be the difference between commercial and civil/hobby drone use and the differing regulatory restrictions and in turn how this effects drone usage.
A hobbyist or non-commercial flight is when you are not making any commercial gain from your flying and this is when you are permitted to fly your UAV without certification. But people often don’t fully consider the term ‘commercial gain’…there does not always have to be monetary payment involved and using footage from flights for advertising purposes and even uploading videos to YouTube is deemed a commercial activity.
Flights for commercial gain require certification of both the pilot/controller flying the drone (UAV Controller’s Certificate) AND the business entity which is conducting the operation (UAC Operator’s Certificate). Although now under 2016 reforms, drones under 2kgs will no longer require approval from CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) before commencing flight operations when it comes to commercial work. Commercial pilots still need to obtain their controller’s certificates though.
A reason for why I am interested in defining the laws for drone use, especially for hobbyists is because people are unaware of them and are engaging in seemingly harmless and leisurely behaviour but if caught then face major consequences. People seldom read the terms and conditions of flying UAV’s and CASA can take action against you in the form of 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.
Australian beauty YouTuber Dani Mansutti has over 1 million subscribers and merely wanted to expand her technological and creative skills when she released a video containing footage from her drone. It was thanks to her being a public figure and having fans which saved her from the penalties from CASA. Her footage contained shots over a public beach and the city of Melbourne, both environments are illegal to obtain imagery from due to them being a public space and within 30 metres of people, vehicles and buildings. Dani was unaware that these regulations even existed and once fans alerted her, she immediately took down the YouTube video before CASA was able to step in.
(I think she forgot about her Facebook video though because I can still access it – link below. She better be careful oops!)