Drone Laws

04 May 2016

So you've got a "drone", but what laws apply when you fly? This article summarises some of the key provisions of the Civil Aviation Rules, the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, and the Privacy Act 1993.

Civil Aviation Rules
The Civil Aviation Rules Part 101 always applies unless you have received a specific exemption from CAA. Some of the key aspects of these rules are:
  • You must have knowledge of the airspace you are flying in and the restrictions associated with that;
  • You must always have permission to fly over people or property;
  • You must not fly more than 400ft above ground level, or beyond unaided visual line of sight;
  • If you are within 4km of an aerodrome then you must either:
    1. Hold a pilot certificate issued by an approved organisation (that’s us!) and have the agreement of the aerodrome operator (for uncontrolled aerodromes) or air traffic control (for a controlled aerodrome); or
    2. Be flying within 100m of and below the top of an object that is between you and the aerodrome will physically stop your UAV from flying towards the aerodrome if you have a fly-away.
Some of these restrictions can be relaxed if you have a certificate issued under Part 102 of the Civil Aviation Rules. You must have a written exposition that describes the procedures that you follow, and those procedures must result in an acceptable level of safety. CAA will assess your exposition and grant certification if they are satisfied with the procedures that you propose.

Reporting accidents and incidents: Civil Aviation Rule Part 12 governs reporting of accidents, incidents, and operating statistics. Accidents must be reported, but incidents that occur under part 101 or 102 need not be reported. There are also no requirements for reporting operating statistics.

Health and Safety at Work Act 2015
If you are conducting commercial operations or using your RPAS within a commercial operation then you are subject to the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. Compliance with the Civil Aviation Rules does not exempt you from compliance with this Act. You must take reasonably practicable steps to ensure that your UAV operation does not cause harm to any person, whether they are employees, customers, casual passers-by, or people who are in the vicinity for any purpose.

Reporting accidents and incidents: If the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 applies to you then you are required to report any accidents and incidents that meet certain criteria. Some of the notifiable events most relevant to UAV operations are:
  • Death of a person;
  • A serious head injury or serious eye injury;
  • A serious burn;
  • Serious lacerations; and
  • An unplanned or uncontrolled crash that exposed any person to a serious risk.
Notification should be made to the regulator as soon as possible by the fastest means possible.

Privacy Act 1993
The Privacy Act 1993 applies regardless of whether you are a commercial or recreational operator. Always ask yourself whether any people you are filming, even if unintentionally, might have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Just because you’re filming in a public place doesn’t mean that you have an absolute right to film. Is the public place difficult to get to or secluded and the people there likely to be expecting a degree of privacy? Would public standards of good taste be offended (e.g. in a motor vehicle accident)? If the answer to either of these questions is ‘yes’ then it is probably a good idea to film elsewhere.

Any Questions? If you have any questions about any of the matters above please contact us.