Can you use a drone for fishing in Australia?
In August last year, footage of a man fishing, while dangling from a drone with a beer, went viral. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) investigated the incident, which took place at Upper Coliban Reservoir in Central Victoria.
The home-made drone was built by Tim French, who rose to fame in 2016 after sharing a YouTube video of his drone waiting in line to buy a Bunnings sausage. Tim spent upwards of $20,000 constructing the custom-made fishing drone, which was used to dangle his friend, Sam Foreman, metres above a reservoir.
After four months of investigations and two raids, CASA handed Tim and his stunt man Sam a total of $4,000 in fines for aiding and abetting unlawful drone flight. Peter Gibson, a spokesperson for CASA told ABC News.
“This is a first for Australia, to have a large homemade drone being used to lift someone off the ground,” he said.
“It’s really not a sensible thing to do in any way, shape or form; there’s lots of things that could have gone wrong, someone could have been seriously injured.”
So, we know dangling a person fishing from a drone is bad news. But what about using a drone, without a human attached, for fishing purposes? We decided to find out whether fishing with a drone in Australia is legal.
Can you use a drone for fishing in Australia?
Aviation law consulting company, Avlaw, says it is legal to use a drone for the purposes of fishing in Australia. According to a statement on their website:
“Once again, there is no general prohibition (or even really any regulations) on using drones specifically for fishing.”
Avlaw went on to say that there is even a company in Australia that specialises in drone fishing, offering the latest equipment for sale, as well as tips for safe and effective drone fishing.
According to Avlaw, drone fishing appears to be overseen by CASA regulations, as well as State regulations relating to flying a drone in certain locations. State fisheries legislation would also impact certain drone fishing activities.
For example, the Fisheries Management Act 1994 (NSW) says it is illegal to catch protected fish species in NSW. However, Avlaw states this act does not specifically refer to drones. On top of this, the parameters of your fishing licence may come into play too.
“There may also be terms of your fishing licence preventing you from flying a drone,” Avlaw said.
Drone fishing around the world
In 2016, the International Game Fish Association (AGFA) endorsed drone fishing in a Facebook post.
“While the rules do not specifically mention the use of drones, the same intent of the rule applies – as long as the mainline is attached to a release clip that allows it to separate away from the apparatus (in this case, a drone) once the fish strikes, this would be IGFA legal as the device does not give the angler an unfair advantage with fighting the fish.”
Of course, we recommend checking with the authority in your State to see what regulations apply to drone fishing in your area. You can also check out important information from CASA about recreational drone use in Australia, here.
Key rules for drone users in Australia
The rules below were published by CASA, the Government body that regulates civil aviation in Australia. These rules were current as of 11 March 2020, and are designed to keep you and others safe, on the ground and in the air.
- You cannot fly a drone more than 120 metres (or 400 feet) above ground level.
- Your drone must stay at least 30 metres away from other people.
- You are only allowed to fly one single drone at a time.
- Your drone must be within your visual line-of-sight. (You must be able to see your drone with your own eyes, not through a screen, goggles or another device.)
- You cannot fly a drone above or over people, or in a populated space, such as an event, a beach or a sporting oval where a game is taking place.
- You must respect the personal privacy of people. Do not photograph or record others without consent. (You may breach other laws by doing so.)
- Drones that weigh 100 grams or more must be flown at least 5.5 kilometres from a controlled airport.
- Do not create a hazard to an aircraft, property or person when operating your drone.
- Only fly in daylight hours, and never fly though fog or cloud.
- Do not fly a drone over or near a location that affects public safety, or where emergency operations are underway. For example, a car accident, fire, search and rescue or police operation.
- For more rules relating to flying a drone recreationally, please head here.
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