ACUO Applauds the Senate Committee Report on Drones

ACUO applauds the final Report of the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport, following its Inquiry into Regulatory requirements that impact on the safe use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, Unmanned Aerial Systems and associated systems.

“The report demonstrates the Committee gained a thorough understanding of Drones and their associated issues,” said Joe Urli, the President of the peak industry association, Australian Certified UAV Operators Inc. (ACUO) “The Committee was able to cut through a variety of interests to understand that this isn’t just about the many applications for drone technology, it’s just as important that we facilitate orderly growth of this industry, safely and efficiently”, said Joe Urli.

ACUO maintains that the rollout of the CASA (CALA) regulatory amendments in 2016 was not in the best interests of aviation and public safety, or the commercial drone industry in Australia more widely. ATSB incident report figures [about drones] have increased almost 120% over the previous year, with no signs of slowing down.

“CASA’s amended regulations appeared to depart from common sense approaches to safety, and that’s why ACUO sought to challenge them, in an effort that eventually culminated in the Senate Committee Report. Were it not for this intervention, the Committee would not have had opportunity to identify the deficiencies in CASA’s suite of drone regulations, nor go on to make the recommendations they did to now try and back-fill some of the gaps”, said Mr Urli. Of the 10 recommendations made by the Senate Committee, ACUO can trace at least 7 of those as being initiated by ACUO in its own formal submissions to the Committee.

Those who thought CASA’s amended regulations in 2016 were a good idea have now come to realise that whilst economic factors might have made some sense initially, the negative impacts on aviation and public safety and security, and ultimately on the professionalism of the drone industry in Australia, have left us overexposed. Approximately one-third of certified commercial drone operators have had serious negative impacts on their business as a result of CASA’s amended regulations, and that too could have been avoided. If we are to baseline with the rest of the world then we need to have a few fundamentals in place and the Senate Committee fully agreed with ACUO on this.

Those fundamentals include:

  • A whole of Government approach to how the industry will be shaped in years to come, including on unmanned traffic management;
  • Basic training for all drone operators
  • Wider enforcement initiatives (beyond just CASA) including better cooperation and curated actions by police and local council officers.

“We urge the Australian Government to respond promptly and decisively in demanding implementation of the recommendations of the Senate Committee”, said ACUO President, Mr Urli.