Illawarra drone users will have to be more aware of restrictions on their use in public places after a tightening of the rules governing the devices.
The buzzing, camera-equipped flying machines are officially called remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs) but are universally referred to as drones.
As their popularity has grown rapidly in recent years so too have complaints about their use in public places, and this has led the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to bring in tighter rules about how and where they can be used.
Incidents where people had been hurt by drones crashing into them – including a child – as well as complaints from the public about drone use, and the huge growth in drone numbers, had motivated the changes, the aviation regulator said.
Plane pilots had also reported seeing drones while taking off and landing.
Under a new regime announced on Friday recreational drones will not be allowed to be flown within 30m of any other people, and they must not be flown higher than 120m above the ground.
They must not be flown over or above people – this includes beaches, parks, events or sports fields where there is a game in progress.
Remote pilots must also maintain a line of site to their drone at all times, and must avoid emergency operations such as car crashes, fires or an ocean rescue.
They must not fly within 5.5km of any “controlled aerodrome” or helipad if it is clear aircraft are operating there.
CASA director of aviation safety Shane Carmody said the new rules still allowed plenty of opportunities for people to fly drones.
“We certainly don’t want to ban recreational drones but we do have to make sure public safety is properly protected,” Mr Carmody said.
“CASA identified some areas in the drone rules that needed strengthening and clarifying to better manage the risks associated with flying drones.
“The changes make the safety requirements clearer for people flying drones and will make the rules easier to enforce.”
But questions persist over how the rules could be enforced. People can report unsafe drone operations to CASA via an online reporting form but must also provide the evidence themselves – including photographs or video evidence.
If they know the identity of the pilot, they must explain how they know they were operating the drone in question.
CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said “we will investigate where we have evidence and issue fines” with “more than 20 fines so far issued this year”.
An earlier version of this story said the drones must be kept higher than 120m, not below. This was a typo and it has been fixed.