Drones have become increasingly popular in Australia, with more and more people using them for various purposes. However, this rise in drone usage has also raised concerns about the noise they create. The Australian Government has established regulations for drone noise, and in some cases, individuals or organisations can apply for an exemption to these regulations. Australian Drone Noise Approvals can be found here
If you’re a drone operator in Australia, it’s important to know that you must apply for approval under the Noise Regulations. The grace period for adjusting to the new regulatory framework ended on July 1st, 2022. However, most drone operators will likely be exempt or automatically granted approval. For complex or large operations, operators may need to undergo a more detailed assessment before obtaining approval from the department on the Drones.gov.au website. Dones.gov.au is an official website of the Australian Government created to provide information and guidelines related to the use of drones or remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) in Australia. The website aims to educate and inform drone operators about the regulations on safe and lawful drone operations, privacy, and noise.
Applying for Australian Drone Noise approvals?
You may need to seek approval under the Noise Regulations if:
• You are flying for a commercial purpose and/or you have been issued a remotely piloted aircraft operator’s certificate (ReOC) (visit CASA’s website).
You do not need to seek approval under the Noise Regulations if:
• You are flying for fun or recreation
• You are flying for a commercial purpose in the ‘Excluded RPA’ category (please see CASA’s Plain English Guide for Micro and Excluded RPA operations for more information)
• You only fly drones that weigh 250 grams or less
• You only fly drones under standard operating conditions (visit CASA’s website)
• You only fly drones for one or more of the following purposes:
• Agricultural operations
• Environmental operations
• Fire-fighting, medical, emergency, or policing purposes
It is recommended you fill out the Self-assessment application form for Australian Drone Noise Approvals located at https://www.drones.gov.au/recreational/noise. You only need to complete this form once to cover your expected and typical drone operations over the next 12 months. If you are not sure about the details of the operations you may be conducting over the next year, answer the questions to the best of your knowledge. If the nature of your operations changes significantly over the next 12 months, you should complete the form again or provide additional information to the department to maintain a valid approval. Details of your obligations will be provided as part of your approval. During the self-assessment form, you will be asked a series of questions on the sort of operations and if your drone operations will impact noise-sensitive areas.
The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communication, and the Arts defines noise-sensitive sites and impacts as:
Noise-sensitive sites are locations that are used for purposes sensitive to noise. This includes:
• Residential buildings
• Schools and places of education including preschools and childcare centers
• Hospitals, aged care facilities, and other health-related facilities
• Places of worship
• Places of temporary residence including hotels and motels
• Cultural sites
• Public recreational buildings and places, e.g., open theatres and amphitheaters.
In determining whether your drone operations are likely to have an impact on noise-sensitive sites, you should take into account the following factors:
• If noise from your drone operation can be clearly heard at the noise-sensitive site, then it can be considered to have an impact.
Example: A drone operator is inspecting construction works that are next to some apartments. If the drone operator is only flying during the day while construction work is occurring, the drone is unlikely to impact the surrounding residences due to the background construction noise you should answer no it does not have an impact however. If the drone is flying at night, the drone operation would likely have an impact on the surrounding residences as there would be no background construction noise you should answer yes it would have an impact.
However, even if you are operating in a noise-sensitive area and will have a noise impact, it does not necessarily mean that you will be exempt from the noise regulations. You will need to determine if your drone operation will have a noise impact on the same noise-sensitive site(s) on an ongoing basis. To determine this, you need to base it on your typical operations or current plans for the next 12 months.
Drone operations should be considered to have an impact on an ongoing basis if they impact the same sensitive site at least four times per week on average over a period of at least 1 month.
For example, a drone delivery service regularly operates in the same suburb. Some properties in this suburb will likely be affected by drones flying overhead or providing deliveries to their neighbors on a regular basis. This operator will then have an impact on an ongoing basis. However, a commercial real-estate photographer takes photographs of different houses on a regular basis. The drone operations will impact different sites each day but will not impact the same site on an ongoing basis.
Once you have completed the required form, you will receive a notification about your exemption status. As previously mentioned, the majority of drone operations in Australia will be exempt from noise regulations. An exemption email will be sent to you, which should be kept on file or included in your CASA operation manual (in approvals/exemptions) and renewed annually or if your assessment changes.
Furthermore, the Australian Government is developing a comprehensive outcomes-based Noise Framework for emerging aviation technologies. This framework will incorporate consistent procedures for measuring the noise output of new technologies, noise impact modeling at ground level, noise-based regulations, standard noise threshold settings developed through consultation with local, state, and territorial governments, and the consideration of noise impacts associated with drones and electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles as part of the Infrastructure Planning Framework.
In conclusion, complying with drone noise regulations is crucial for safe and lawful drone operations in Australia. By understanding the regulations, monitoring noise emissions, and applying for an exemption if necessary, drone operators can ensure they are operating within the law and minimising the impact of their drones on the public and wildlife.
About the author
Hover UAV is a leading drone consulting company based in Australia. With years of experience in the industry, we specialise in providing expert advice and support to drone operators of all levels, from beginners to advanced professionals. Our team of experienced and certified drone pilots has a passion for helping our clients achieve their goals safely and efficiently. We are committed to staying up-to-date with the latest drone regulations and technologies, and we take pride in providing exceptional customer service to our clients. If you have any questions or need assistance with drone operations, don’t hesitate to contact us at Hover UAV.