Drone laws could lead to mid-air collisions, pilots and air traffic controllers warned

Pilots and air traffic controllers have called for new regulations over the use of drones to be scrapped, warning they could lead to catastrophic mid-air collisions.

The new laws are aimed to cut the cost and red tape around operating drones that weigh less than two kilograms.

The changes will come into effect from tomorrow.

Under the new legislation, small commercial drone operators would not have to pay the current $1,400 in regulatory fees and landholders could operate drones of up to 25 kilograms on their properties without the need for approvals.

Aviation special counsel for Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, Joseph Wheeler, said the move towards deregulation would significantly increase the risk of a crash between a drone and a plane or a helicopter.

He called on the Senate to disallow the legislation at its next sitting and flagged a possible High Court appeal if the laws were not amended.

“If we had greater safeguards to enforce the regulations when things go wrong, that would go a long way towards ensuring with the injuries that inevitably would happen, the ability for people on the ground who are injured to access compensation,” he said.

“At the moment, someone could be injured by a drone on the ground with no ability to identify the owner of that drone.

“They have absolutely no capacity to access any insurance or access any compensation for their losses.”

‘Potential of impact fire’ with drone

Aviation Lawyer Joseph Wheeler and pilots speak out the front of Canberra's parliament house.

Australian Federation of Air Pilots president David Booth said rogue drones flying near Australia’s airports were a growing concern.

“Sydney Airport in the last four weeks have shut down their airspace or had issues with their airspace on two occasions,” Captain Booth said.

“I’ve been airborne at 12,000 feet over the Hawkesbury River to have air traffic control tell me, flying a 737: ‘Hazard alert, unidentified drone flight level 120 in your vicinity’.

“I’ll tell you right now, it’s not a nice feeling knowing that this drone is in your airspace.”

Captain Booth said drones could cause a huge amount of damage if they hit a helicopter’s tail rotor or flew into a plane’s engine.

“Birds are soft, they might destroy the engine, but with a drone there is the potential of impact fire and they’re reinforced with kevlar composite,” he said.

“Two kilos at 250 kilometres an hour, or potentially 400 kilometres an hour — there’s a lot of energy in that impact.”

But the Civil Aviation Safety Authority said the requirement for people to follow strict operating conditions at all times would ensure public safety.

In a statement, it said there was also a requirement for operators to complete an online notification process so the authority had a record of operators’ details.

It said penalties could be issued for breaches of the regulations.

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Article originally posted here.

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