Drones and low-flying aircraft

Unsafe operation of drones and remotely piloted aircraft

Regulations specify the rules which operators need to follow when operating remotely piloted aircraft and model aircraft—commonly referred to as drones.

Generally the rules are:

  • Operators should only fly a model aircraft in visual line-of-sight, in day visual meteorological conditions (VMC). What does that mean?
    • No night flying (generally).
    • No flying in or through cloud or fog, and you must.
    • Be able to see the aircraft with your own eyes (rather than through first-person-view [FPV]) at all times.
  • Operators must not fly a model aircraft closer than 30 metres to vehicles, boats, buildings or people.
  • Operators must not fly a model aircraft over populous areas such as beaches, heavily populated parks, or sports ovals while they are in use.
  • In controlled airspace, which covers most Australian cities, you must not fly higher than 120 metres (400 feet) above the ground.
  • You must not fly in a way that creates a hazard to other aircraft, so operators should keep at least 5.5 km away from airfields, aerodromes and helicopter landing sites.

Find out more about reporting unsafe operation of drones and remotely piloted aircraft and complete the Civil Aviation Safety Authority's on-line unsafe drone operations complaint form to report remotely pilot aircraft (RPA) ions you believe may have breached civil aviation safety regulations.

Safety breaches can only be investigated where there is sufficient evidence, such as photos or video recordings of the breach and the person controlling the drone/RPA at the time.

Low-flying aircraft

Regulations specify the height at which aircraft may lawfully fly. Flying below these heights may constitute a breach of the regulations. However, there are situations in which low flying is permitted. These situations include, but are not limited to:

  • flying in the course of taking off, landing or conducting a missed approach
  • flying in accordance with instructions from an air traffic controller
  • undertaking certain kinds of specialised aerial work (for example, power line inspection, geographical survey work, aerial firefighting, agricultural spraying)

Unless otherwise permitted, the regulations normally require that pilots fly no lower than 1000 feet over built-up areas, or 500 feet over any other area. CASA may investigate low flying incidents. To do so effectively, however, CASA requires sufficient information to allow the aircraft involved to be identified. Photographs are helpful, and details of the aircraft's registration number, type, make and model as well as the date and time of day the low-flying activity was observed should be provided if possible. If you have a need to report a low-flying event and have information to support your complaint please complete the Civil Aviation Safety Authority's Report a low flying aircraft form.

Military aircraft

If you believe the aircraft involved is an Australia Defence Force (ADF) aircraft, please go to the Military flying activities section.