Report of drone used to invade privacy coincides with New Zealand Government review of regulation of drones

October 31, 2018 |

There is no dilema or delay in the technical development of drones, the common term for remotely piloted aircraft systems or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).  There is however huge delays and significant dilemas by legislatures on how to respond to the legal challenges with the misuse of drones and what regulation is required.  In October 2016 the Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs Transport References Committee conducted an enquiry on Regulatory requirements that impact on the safe use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, Unmanned Aerial Systems and associated systems.  The Committee tabled its report on 31 July 2018 with almost no fanfare.  And deservedly so.  It is a narrowly focused, quite technical and limited report focused on the use of drones and rather than the broader issues which affect not only the use of the drones but the impact they have on others.

In New Zealand there is a report of a drone being used to interfere with a persons’ privacy and as a means to scope out a home before burglaring it.  Coincidentally the New Zealand government is reviewing the laws relating to the use of drones.

The report provides:

Drones could face tighter restrictions as the Government assesses what it can do about rogue and dangerous operators. 

Briefing notes released under the Official Information Act showed the Ministry of Transport was looking to follow Europe’s stricter drone regulations after an increase in complaints to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

However, changes to the rules on drones can’t come soon enough for some residents in Auckland.

Auckland resident Tina Hart said she felt her privacy had been violated by a drone that was hovering around her Te Atat? Peninsula house on October 9.

She closed the curtains, and waited for the aircraft to go away.

The next morning, Hart noticed a $4500 statue that stood as guardian to her home was stolen.

“My husband is from Wellington and it’s a maquette for Solace in the Wind by Max Patte,” Hart said.

“We thought about not putting it in the garden but it’s one of those things that needs to be in the wind.”

Hart said there were no more copies of the statue available for sale, and she was now much more wary about drones.

“It’s so violating. It’s out of reach but in your space.”

The growth of drone usage has also raised significant safety questions for other aircraft.

In the first seven months of 2018, the CAA received 268 complaints over drones.

During that period, 104 complaints were related to privacy while 35 were near misses with aircraft – almost matching the previous year’s total for near misses.

The numbers have increased dramatically over the past five years.

Air New Zealand has been vocal in its calls for tighter regulations after potentially catastrophic near misses between drones and passenger aircraft. 

In the July briefing notes sent to Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter, the ministry’s advisors suggested new drone rules in the European Union (EU) could be applied here.

The EU’s rules included requirements around the aircrafts’ technical capabilities, owner registration and a remote identification transmitter that transmitted data, including the position of the drone and the operator’s registration number while in-flight.

The EU-wide rules were adopted in June 2018 and New Zealand was waiting to see how effective the changes were in encouraging better compliance from drone operators. 

Ministry of Transport international connections manager Tom Forster said our regulations needed to keep up with drone technology.

Work by the ministry and Civil Aviation Authority was looking to maximise benefits of advanced commercial drones while managing the risks with smaller drones, mainly used for recreation, he said.

The Senate Committee’s list of recommendations are:

Recommendation 1

8.10    The committee recommends that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority draw on the growing body of international empirical research and collision testing on remotely piloted aircraft systems below 2kg to immediately reform Part 101 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998.

Recommendation 2

8.20    The committee recommends that the Australian Government introduce a mandatory registration regime for all remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) weighing more than 250 grams. As part of registration requirements, RPAS operators should be required to successfully complete a basic competence test regarding the safe use of RPAS, and demonstrate an understanding of the penalties for non-compliance with the rules.

Recommendation 3

8.26    The committee recommends that the Australian Government develop a tiered education program whereby remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) users progressively unlock RPAS capabilities upon completion of each level of training. Three tiers are proposed as follows:

  • purchase of the RPAS – mandatory registration requires user to demonstrate knowledge the basic rules for flying RPAS, and the penalties for non-compliance (as described in Recommendation 2);
  • recreational use of RPAS – second tier requires user to demonstrate an advanced understanding of aviation rules and safety before unlocking additional capabilities; and
  • commercial use of RPAS – final tier requires user to demonstrate comprehensive aviation knowledge before obtaining commercial operator licence and unlocking full RPAS capability.

Recommendation 4

8.29    The committee recommends that the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, in cooperation with the Australian Federal Police and other relevant authorities, prohibit the use of remotely piloted aircraft systems in the airspace above significant public buildings, critical infrastructure and other vulnerable areas.

Recommendation 5

8.31    The committee recommends that the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities, in cooperation with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, work with manufacturers of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) to develop future solutions to RPAS safety, including the implementation of technical restrictions on altitude and distance for ‘off-the-shelf’ RPAS.

Recommendation 6

8.37    The committee recommends that the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities, in cooperation with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, develop appropriate airworthiness standards for remotely piloted aircraft of all sizes and operations. At a minimum, fail-safe functions such as ‘return to home’ and safe landing functionality, and forced flight termination, should be mandated.

Recommendation 7

8.38    The committee recommends that the Australian Government develop import controls to enforce airworthiness standards for foreign manufactured remotely piloted aircraft systems.

Recommendation 8

8.44    The committee recommends that the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities, in collaboration with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, develop a whole of government policy for remotely piloted aircraft safety in Australia, and establish appropriate coordination and implementation mechanisms with relevant departments and agencies to implement the policy.

8.45    As part of a whole of government policy approach, the committee further recommends that the Australian Government explore cost?effective models to develop and administer new regulatory initiatives for remotely piloted aircraft systems, including a mandatory registration regime and tiered education program. The harmonisation of state and territory privacy laws should also be considered.

Recommendation 9

8.50    The committee recommends that, as part of a whole of government approach to remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) safety, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority work with Airservices Australia and other relevant agencies to implement a comprehensive research and data gathering regime. Information should be collated and centralised in a way that allows for the examination of RPAS registrations, operations, trends and incidents, to provide an evidence base on which to assess the efficacy of current regulations, and to inform the development of future policy and regulations.

Recommendation 10

8.64    The committee recommends that, following the development of a whole of government policy approach to RPAS safety, including the establishment of a national registration system, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) work with state and territory enforcement bodies to implement a nationally consistent enforcement regime for remotely piloted aircraft systems. Under this regime, enforcement bodies would be delegated powers to provide on-the-spot fines and report infringements of the regulations directly to CASA.



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