In a move that’s likely to upset many Australians, the Government is pushing ahead with plans to legalise drone photography, despite concerns from privacy campaigners.
The Government says the plan will allow the Government to track the movements of people and animals on Australian soil, and provide a “greater level of transparency” about the activities of private businesses.
The plan, which is likely to be approved by Parliament before Christmas, would see drones equipped with cameras mounted on their payloads fitted with a device that records their location and can also be used to identify people or objects.
“The Government’s long-term objective is to provide a greater level of privacy to Australians and to allow the Australian Government to monitor and control the movement of its citizens, while at the same time protecting the environment,” a statement from the Government said.
The move to legalising drones comes after the Federal Government last year introduced legislation that made it a crime to kill or injure an Australian wildlife, and a bill which would make it a criminal offence to destroy an aircraft carrying a drone.
The new rules would also apply to the flying of drones over “any part of a Territory or State”.
The Australian Government has been working to create a drone law for some time.
“As a matter of urgency, it is now necessary to take the necessary action to protect the health and welfare of our wildlife, the environment and the community,” the Government statement said.
“This Government’s drone law is needed to protect our country’s wildlife and the environment from a range of threats, including unmanned aerial vehicles, which threaten the health of our residents and communities.”
Under the new legislation, drones would be classified as an “air vehicle”, which would mean they would be subject to licensing requirements and restrictions.
The bill will be debated in the House of Representatives before it is voted on by the House in early December.
“It is the Government’s hope that these amendments will be passed in Parliament before the Christmas break,” the statement said, adding that it would be a “time-consuming and lengthy process”.
The Government will introduce the new drone legislation to Parliament before December 1.
Photo: Alex Ellinghausen The new legislation would apply to drone operators who would use drones for “commercial purposes” – such as filming wildlife or capturing wildlife, but also for recreational use.
The legislation will also apply for drones used for “operational or educational purposes”.
The legislation would also allow police to use drones to help track down people who have committed offences, such as drug dealing.
The legislation would require the Government “to provide for the interception of all unlawful acts” by drone operators.
“Drones will be permitted to carry out surveillance activities that are carried out by the use of cameras, cameras mounted and/or mounted on the unmanned aerial vehicle, cameras on the remote control, and cameras on drones,” the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments (FLLI) said.
“Drones are also permitted to take photographs of wildlife or plants.”
The Federal Government says it will seek advice from the Federal Law Reform Commission before introducing the drone law.
It said it would consult with industry and local government to make sure it would not restrict the ability of farmers to harvest crops.