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Illegal drone use on the rise near Australia’s airports

written by Jake Nelson | August 17, 2023

The DJI Mavic 2 quadcopter drone. (Image: DJI)

Airservices Australia has warned of an increase in drone activity within no-fly zones around most of Australia’s major capital-city airports.

In its Australian Aviation Network Overview 2023, the air traffic control body said there has been a 16.3 per cent increase in average daily drone flights in FY2023 vs FY2022. December 2022 was the highest month for detections, with 5,258 drone activities spotted near airports.

In the period from 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2023, Sydney saw a 21.7 per cent increase in individual drone flights, Adelaide 60.4 per cent, Brisbane 22.4 per cent, and Perth 11.6 per cent. Only Melbourne saw a decrease, down 8.6 per cent.

According to CASA data, there has been a 187 per cent increase in remote pilot licences since FY2018. The aviation safety body has prohibited drones weighing more than 250g from being flown within 5.5 km of a controlled airport without an exemption, while all drones, regardless of weight, are banned from flying over or in departure or approach paths.

CASA earlier this year flagged Sydney’s Bankstown Airport as one site where drones are increasingly being used in controlled airspace.


“Our reports show higher instances of drones being flown on the weekends within 5.5 km of Bankstown Airport – especially on weekends and afternoons,” said CASA Manager Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) Operations, Scott Duffy, in March.

“As drones continue to soar in popularity especially after Christmas, it is important users inform themselves about where they can and can’t operate their drone, if they need to be licensed and the dangers of flying drones near airports.”

The authority has also told recreational drone and model aircraft operators not to fly their drones within 8km of Surfers Paradise this weekend for the Pacific Air Show. This area includes tourist sites such as Broadbeach, Main Beach, Burleigh Beach and Sea World, as well as suburbs such as Biggera Waters, Southport, Sorrento and Ashmore.

“Airspace restrictions introduced for the airshow between 17 and 20 August will apply to all airspace users, including model aircraft and drones of all sizes and weights – even those that might be considered toys,” CASA said.

“The restrictions apply from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm on August 17 and from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm on 18 to 20 August.

“All drone flights within the Temporary Restricted Airspace (TRA) are banned, even those on private property such as a back yard.”

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