Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
When we go out and about shooting aerial video, aerial photography and aerial surveys, we are often asked the same questions. So here are the answers to some of the common questions people like to ask about what we do.
Do you need a licence?
Yes and no. If you are flying UAVs or drones for recreational purposes you don’t need to have a licence. But the moment you fly them for any kind of commercial gain (including for non-cash rewards or even to promote your own business) you must hold a licence or authorisation from CASA (the Civil Aviation Safety Authority).
CASA has introduced an exemption so that drones or UAVs with a weight of less than 2kg can be used commercially without a licence. But even then, operators must register and pass basic flight tests before being allowed to fly, flights are restricted in areas with airports and helipads (even if not manned), and exempt class operators cannot get authorisations from CASA to fly at night, close to people, above 400 feet, etc. Operators without a licence may also not be able to obtain public liability insurance, so if their drone hits you or your property you would need to sue the pilot personally.
Is Queensland Drones licenced?
Yes. We have held CASA ReOC #6466 since 2016. This requires us to have passed a commercial pilot test, obtained an Aviation Radio Operators Certificate and have in place detailed operations manuals, job safety systems, flight records and equipment maintenance records, just like any commercial aviation business.
You should always ask this question of any UAV or drone operator offering to undertake work for you, because if they’re not licenced and insured you could end up being held responsible if people are injured, if property is damaged, or if the operator breaches air safety regulations.
UAV or drone licencing and regulation is managed by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
Are you insured?
Yes. You should also ask this question of any UAV or drone operator before you hire them. Otherwise you could be left with a very expensive bill if something goes wrong.
Queensland Drones carries a $20 million public liability insurance cover and $5 professional indemnity insurance.
Is it a drone or a UAV?
Drone or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), it’s essentially the same thing, although these days our industry and CASA prefer to call the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems or RPAS. A drone is really something the military fly to shoot rockets at terrorists, but we don’t mind if you prefer to call them “drones”.
Is it safe?
Yes, in the hands of the right operator. Please do ask that question because accidents have happened and people have been hurt.
Queensland Drones is absolutely committed to a safety management system equivalent to that used by operators or helicopters and light aircraft. This means we operate under strict safety conditions and we carry out both a safety assessment and a risk management plan for every flight.
We follow strict safety procedures and checklists to ensure our equipment and systems are operating normally and that our procedures minimise any risk of accidents or incidents.
When flying near, around or above people we must maintain a safe distance. This safe distance is currently 30 metres.
What limits do you have?
Aside from the 30 metre rule around people, CASA regulations require that we do not:
- Fly over crowds or traffic on roads
- Fly more than 400 feet (120 metres) above the ground
- Fly within 5 km of any towered airport without specific permission
- Fly in the landing or take-off zones of any airport without permission
- Fly beyond visual line of sight (varies according to size of UAV and weather)
- Fly after sunset or before sunrise
- Fly in any way which may cause danger or risk to manned aircraft
Our smaller UAVs like our DJI Phantoms don’t fly well in windy conditions, so we usually won’t fly them in winds of 20 km/hour or more. Our fixed wings handle the wind better, but we usually bring those down if winds exceed 35 km/hour.
We cannot fly in rain or moist conditions (like fog or drizzle) as our UAVs contain sensitive electronic equipment which can be damaged by water.
We typically don’t fly indoors, although we can do so in larger buildings like auditoriums and arenas.
Do you spy on people?
No, absolutely not.
Queensland Drones will usually not fly over any private property without the permission of the property owner or tenant. We may transit briefly across property boundaries to get a particular shot or when carrying out turns during mapping flights, but our cameras are turned toward the object of our flight, usually the ground below the drone.
Spying with drones is mostly media hype and not terribly practical.
Realistically, drones are not well suited to spying on people anyway. Most drones would need to be less than 10 metres above the ground and less than 20 metres from you to get a clear image of you or your family … and you’d certainly hear and see them if they were that close.
Can I hire my friend with a drone?
No. Only if your friend holds a UOC Operator’s Certificate (UOC). Otherwise your friend is not allowed to fly for any commercial purpose or for any kind of reward.
In fact, if you use an unlicensed operator you may find yourself held liable for any damage or injury they cause and for any regulations they breach.
Hobby drones are great for recreational flying and taking the occasional photo or video, but they are typically less precise, less safe and produce lower quality images and videos than professional UAV or RPAS equipment.
How can I find out more?
If you would like to find out more about our aerial imaging services and how they can help you, use the links below to get in touch.