Noise Regulation for Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA)—Drones
RPA, commonly referred to as drones, are an emerging and innovative technology being used around the world. Drones have a diversity of applications including in the agricultural sector, emergency services, infrastructure inspections and surveys, surf lifesaving, delivery of medical supplies, aerial photography and commercial delivery just to name a few.
There are currently no internationally-mandated noise aviation standards for drones. Countries and regions across the world are considering what regulations and standards may be appropriate given the drone industry is rapidly evolving and any regulation needs to take account of advances in drone technology.
Until recently the department was of the view that the Air Navigation (Aircraft Noise) Regulations 2018 (the Regulations) did not apply to drones, and that approvals under the Regulations were intended for vintage, adventure, ex-military and other historical aircraft operations for which noise standards do not apply.
However, having regard to representations from the community and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Standing Committee on Economic Development and Tourism, the Department has examined carefully the applicability of the Regulations to drone operations.
The outcome of that consideration is that the department has formed the view that a range of commercial and recreational drone operations within Australia require approvals under section 17 of the Regulations.
A number of individuals and community representative organisations have made requests for enforcement action to be undertaken in relation to past commercial drone operations that have occurred in Australia.
Given the past lack of clarity about the operation of the Regulations in relation to drones, and having regard to the fact that the potential applicability of the Regulations to drone operations has not been the subject of public information initiatives, it is not considered that the public interest would be served by initiating enforcement action in relation to past drone operations.
Current and Future operations
Given the continued development and potential increased use of drones, the department will be conducting a review to determine the appropriate scope and breadth of future noise regulation.
The review will consider the community noise impact of drone operations, the size, frequency and nature of drone operations (recreational and commercial), and existing safety regulations administered by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
The review will examine State and Territory regulations that commonly cover noise from equipment operating in urban environments.
The review will also look at developments overseas and industry innovation to reduce noise impacts through better drone design and operations including varying flight paths.
Pending completion of this review, the Department will focus its regulatory resources on those commercial operators that propose to operate in residential areas and that have exemptions from the CASA under Subpart 11.F of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 from any of the requirements in Subparts 101.C and 101.F or an approval under Part 101 of those Regulations.
Airservices is responsible for managing complaints and enquiries about aircraft noise, including drones, through its Noise Complaint and Information Service (NCIS). This service is the Australian aviation industry’s main interface on aircraft noise and related issues for the community. Complaints and enquiries help identify issues of concern and possible opportunities for improvements.
The NCIS can be contacted:
- by phone on 1800 802 584 (freecall); or
- via the Airservices Australia website.
The safety regulation of drone operations in Australia is the responsibility of CASA.
If you wish to report unsafe operations of any drone, you should contact CASA.