Heed changes to drone rules

Changes made to Civil Aviation Safety Regulations in September last year mean that operators of remotely piloted aircraft, or drones, weighing less than two kilograms no longer require an operator's certificate or a Remote Pilot License. 

Private landholders can now operate RPAs up to 25kg in weight without a certificate or license, and operating RPAs up to 150kg only requires a certificate. 

There has been much discussion about how this technology could allow for increased efficiency on farms.

But could there be a dark side to progress?

In December, the government rejected proposals for the introduction of a new law to address issues on invasions of privacy arising from the use of these devices. 

The Australian Law Reform Commission reports that there are gaps in Australian privacy laws, meaning that a person operating a drone above your private property may well be able to obtain information about you and your operations without any recourse by you. 

There are many laws that could be used to curb drone surveillance on your private property, such as trespass, nuisance, the Surveillance Devices Act 2007 and the Privacy Act 1998.

But there are significant limits to these laws as highlighted by the High Court case of ABC versus Lenah Game Meats, when a trespasser filmed slaughtering activity in a possum processing facility. 

The Court confirmed that while the trespasser was unable to publish the film, there was no right to privacy in Australia that would prevent a third party, such as the ABC, from publishing it.

Similarly, Australia's privacy act only regulates activities of government agencies and certain private sector organisations; not individuals or small business.

For those who are concerned about RPAs/drones invading their privacy and potentially impacting business operations or obtaining information about your operations, it is important that you obtain advice as to what options are available to you. 

By Anthony Kelly, Partner

This article first appeared in The Stock Journal on Thursday 14 September 2017. 

Practice Area: Farm Law

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