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Strict New Drone Laws Take Effect

Australia’s first set of rules for amateurs flying drones became law yesterday, putting some stiff immediate limits on where and how the unmanned flying vehicles can be safely operated.

The one that will affect most home operators forbids the flying of drones within 30 metres of any person, effectively ruling out drone flying in many parks and reserves, as well as suburban streets.

But already professional bodies for pilots and air traffic controllers are complaining that the rules are not tough enough. They want the rules changed to insist that all operators of sub-2kg drones are properly trained, and are looking to Federal Parliament to overturn the rules.

The rules allow a person to operate a drone weighing less than 2 kg without certification, if it is being operated in standard operating conditions. It must fly within a visual line of sight, below 400ft, and more than 30m away from anyone not directly associated with the operation. All flights must be in the daytime.

Users who live near a building with a helipad, must not operate a drone in airspace a helicopter might use.

Other rules ban drone flying where emergency operations are under way or where public safety is an issue, such as a car crash scene of a police operation.

Aviation special counsel for Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, Joseph Wheeler, has called on the Senate to disallow the legislation at its next sitting. He claims the new rules significantly increase the risk of a crash between a drone and a plane or a helicopter.

The full set of rules can be found at www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2016L00400.

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