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Relaxation of Drone Flying Laws Opens Up Professional Aerial Image Opportunities

In late September 2016, The Australian Government Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) removed a large portion of red tape surrounding commercial drone use. It was a move that made it easier and more cost effective for professional photographers and videographers to incorporate aerial imagery into their productions.

Drones allow the capture of unique aerial perspectives

Before we explain what these changes are and how they will translate into a massive shift in the professional photography world lets go back to the basics.


What is a Drone?

Drone, Quadcopter, UAV, UAS, RPA, RPAS; there are many confusingly different words in use around the world for what is essentially a personal aircraft that can be controlled remotely from the ground via a radio transmitter.

If you’re struggling to comprehend what that might look like, just think of a radio controlled car that is able to fly around in the sky at speeds of up to 65kph. Now imagine a gimbal stabilised camera strapped to the bottom that can capture ridiculously smooth RAW images and cinematic 4K quality videos from the air and you have a basic understanding of what a drone is and what they can do.

The DJI Mavic Pro is much smaller in size than traditional drones and is capable of delivering impressive video and photor results.

Drones can range in size from the pocket-sized ZeroTech Dobby Selfie Drone, to the compact yet versatile DJI Mavic Pro all the way up to the half a metre wide Yuneec Typhoon H Hexacopter Drone which supports a video transmission range of up to 1.6km.

The DJI Phantom 4 Drone has advanced obstacle avoidance systems and can capture 4K video.

Drones are available with advanced flight technology like intelligent obstacle avoidance to make flying safer and easier. As well as enhanced flight safety drones also offer a choice of cinematic controls, from simple tap to fly navigation to dynamic subject tracking with controlled circling, the automated flight systems make it effortless to capture your own epic aerial footage and pictures.


What Has Changed?

If your drone is being piloted for commercial use and it has a maximum take-off weight of less than two kilograms, then you no longer need to apply for a certificate or a pilot’s licence from CASA in order to fly your aircraft.

The previous requirements to pay about $1400 in regulatory fees have been abolished, along with the need to maintain and develop flight manuals and other documentation.

Aerial photography and videography has many applications from real estate and construction to wedding and filmmaking

Essentially, this means that photographers and videographers can get excited about a whole range of new possibilities. Imagine how different your production could look now that you can incorporate a helicopter style shooting perspective.

Wedding videographers can capture their client’s special day from above, film makers can explore a whole new way of recording cinematic style opening shots, and photographers have an entirely new birds eye perspective to view the world from.
The DJI Inspire RAW has a X5R 4K core that can shoot 4K RAW video from the sky and can be controlled by two pilots at the same time

What Are the New Laws?

For an in depth explanation of the laws surrounding aerial photography we recommend that you visit the Australian Government Civil Aviation Safety Authority or CASA website which details the laws exactly as they are written, but we’ve provided a quick summary below to get you started:
  • A drone was called an UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) in the old legislation but under the new laws it is now referred to as a RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft)
  • Flights must only be during the day and your RPA must be always within a visual line-of sight
  • Your RPA must not be flown any higher than 120m
  • Your RPA must be kept at least 30m away from other people
  • You must keep at least 5.5km between your RPA and any controlled aerodromes like airports and helicopter pads
  • Flight is not permitted over any populous areas like beaches, parks and sporting ovals
  • You cannot fly your RPA over or near an emergency operation this could include firefighting situations, car crashes, or any police operations
  • You may only fly one RPA at a time
  • Before your first commercial flight it is necessary to notify CASA of your flight and apply for a ARN (Aviation Reference Number)

All in all, the new rules are fairly straightforward and considering that you no longer need to pay expensive registration fees, licensing fees, or maintain complicated log books and flight records it is now decidedly easier to take to the sky.

Aerial perspectives that are possible with drones are unique and refine what is possible with photography

Pro shooters have the option to show a whole new perspective to their clients, by embracing the creative opportunities that drone photography and videography can offer. With the advancement of cinematic flight technology and the Australian Governments relaxation of flight laws there has never been a better time to consider incorporating shooting aerial imagery into your next commercial project.