Mandatory registration for all drone users could be on the cards

Canberra drone racer and enthusiast David Aitchison. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Canberra drone racer and enthusiast David Aitchison. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

All recreational drone users could be forced to register their drone by 2023 in order to legally fly them, under a possible plan laid out by the federal air safety regulator.

It comes as the Civil Aviation Safety Authority mandated registration for all commercial and non-recreational drones, which came into effect on Thursday.

Users flying drones for non-recreational reasons who have failed to register their device with the authority face a fine of up to $11,000. As of last week, more than 18,200 drones have been registered with the authority. There were also more than 10,500 accreditations.

Registration for drone users would be free until at least the end of the current financial year, although the authority has said users may be required to pay a small fee for registration following that time. No amount had been set as yet.

Spokesman for the authority Peter Gibson said users would be required to register their drone every 12 months. "Essentially, they just go online and put in their details and the details of their drone," Mr Gibson said.

"To register each individual drone takes just minutes."

Talks had been under way for several years on instituting mandatory registration for drones as part of greater safety regulations.

While those who fly their drones for fun in their backyard or their local park won't have to register theirs just yet, Mr Gibson said there may be an expansion of the scheme.

"There's no requirement for recreational users at this point, but we have indicated that 2023 is the year we will move to recreational drone registration," Mr Aitchison said.

Canberran David Aitchison would be one of the people who would have to register his drone for use, should registration become mandatory.

He regularly races drones as part of the Canberra Multirotor Racing Club, and said registration for smaller and recreational drones may be impractical.

"They don't represent a risk to the public, because they're small and lightweight and we generally have very good control of them and we understand the space that we fly them in," Mr Aitchison said.

"The people who [the mandatory registration] is targeting are the ones who probably won't register anyway."

However, he said registration for larger drones, often used for commercial purposes, was a good step forward to ensure safety.

"In the commercial space, drones are a valuable thing, and those ones are used in built-up areas, and the registration is designed to keep people safe," he said.

The club's president and fellow drone user Timothy Crofts said he had a neutral stance on the issue of registration, although he said other drone users could see the move as overreaching.

"It's easy for some people to say it's taking away the rights that people had," he said.

"There are certainly people at both ends of the spectrum."

This story Mandatory drone registration now looms for all flyers first appeared on The Canberra Times.