The case for cutting red tape on drones (Research Report)

This report was for the Institute of Public Affairs, and submitted to a Senate inquiry. Download the PDF.


From videography and construction, to the age-old primary industries of agriculture and mining, drones hold remarkable potential to revolutionise many Australian industries.

From 29 September 2016 regulatory changes by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) cut red tape on drones by removing burdensome license requirements for low-risk operations and carving out an exclusion category for drones on private property.

While these changes represent a reasonable trade-off between community safety and flexibility, they have not escaped political debate from various interest groups. This paper contributes to this policy discussion by placing it within a broader context of the regulation of new technologies.

Two further reform recommendations for drones in Australia are made:

  1. Remove the regulatory requirement for drone operators to be within visual line-of-sight (VLOS) for commercial drones. Cutting this red tape and enabling beyond visual line-ofsight (BVLOS) flights will help stimulate investment in new business models.
  2. Adopt a permissionless innovation approach. Rather than precautionarily regulating based on hypothetical future harms, a permissionless approach allows innovation by default, and waits for harm to be demonstrated before intervening.

Adopting these recommendations will ensure the Australian drone industry is able to flourish by remaining at the frontier of global drone regulation best practice.

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