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Large commercial drones to incur $40 registration levy

written by Hannah Dowling | July 27, 2021

From Tuesday, all commercial drones weighing over 500 grams will incur a $40 registration levy, under a new policy announced by the government.

Off the back of new regulations that require all drones or remotely pilot aircraft (RPA) used for business purposes to be registered, the federal government has announced a new registration fee for commercial drones weighing over 500 grams.

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From 27 July, all drones or RPA flown for business purposes weighing over 500 grams will incur a $40 registration levy per drone, while those weighing 500 grams or less will not incur a fee.

The levy will also be incurred for every registration renewal.

Any commercial drones weighing over 500 grams that are already registered as of 27 July will not need to pay the levy until the next renewal.

Registration is valid for 12 months.

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Commercial drone registration was introduced on 30 September 2020, and became a mandatory practice for all drones used for commercial purposes from 28 January 2021.

Fines of up to $11,100 are applicable for anyone found operating an unregistered drone for commercial purposes.

CASA has introduced mandatory registration on commercial drones in order to keep drone operators accountable for incidents, and encourage safe operations.

The news comes as the number of ‘near encounters’ between drones and manned aircraft nearly doubled in three years.

Figures released by the ATSB showed there were 194 such occurrences in 2020, up from just 87 in 2016.

While one has yet to cause an accident, the numbers will raise concerns that a more dangerous incident in future is inevitable.

The rise in reported cases is likely due to the explosion in drone ownership, with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau now estimating there are at least 50,000, and possibly hundreds of thousands, remote piloted crafts in Australia.

Between 2010 and the end of 2019, there were 628 so-called near encounters, 538 of which involved planes and 85 helicopters.

Fortunately, only one of that larger number involved what the ATSB term a “serious incident”, which is an occurrence that has a high probability of becoming an accident.

Dr Stuart Godley, ATSB director transport safety, said, “Each year, thousands of safety occurrences involving Australian aircraft and foreign registered aircraft operating in Australia are reported to the ATSB.

“This report is part of a series that aims to provide information and statistical data to the aviation industry, manufacturers and policymakers, as well as to the travelling and general public, about these aviation safety occurrences.

“In particular, the data can be used to determine what can be learned to improve transport safety in the aviation sector.”

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