Aussie city battles drone flights in restricted airport airspace

CASA drone airspace

Authorities in the eastern Australian city of Gold Coast are warning of a rising number of drone flights in restricted airspace – particularly around its airport – and have made a plea to the region’s pilots to respect no-go delineations as the nation heads into summer.

On Monday, officials from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) issued a statement asking people operating drones to be attentive to airspace restrictions in Gold Coast and surrounding areas in Queensland. They extended that plea to UAV pilots in the northern part of New South Wales (NSW), whose state border sits flush with Gold Coast’s airport. 

Authorities didn’t put a figure on the spiking sightings of UAVs entering banned areas, but did say those incidents have been particularly heavy around the Gold Coast airport – the nation’s sixth-largest, and the busiest outside a state capitol.

“Drones can pose a serious safety risk to aircraft and disrupt airport operations, so it is extremely important that drone users understand the airspace restrictions impacting parts of the southern Gold Coast and northern NSW,” Queensland Airports CEO Marion Charlton said in a CASA communiqué. “Drones must never be flown near major airports like Gold Coast Airport and should be kept well clear of aircraft.”

That’s apparently easier said than done in certain parts of Gold Coast – a major domestic and foreign tourist destination. Many of its most popular beaches and other coastal attractions are grouped fairly close together in an area not far from the airport – the result: more people and more drones converging on that particular zone. As summertime nears and tourism grows, the risk of craft straying into restricted airspace surrounding the airport increases.

“We understand the allure of using drone cameras to capture the best attributes of the nation’s playground, but this mustn’t be done at the expense of the safety of the community,” said CASA spokesman Peter Gibson. “This is concerning because these areas are within a 5.5 km radius of Gold Coast Airport, where drone activity is prohibited for drones that weigh more than 250 grams.”

In addition to its general public appeal, CASA is liaising with municipal authorities, tourism centers, and community groups to reiterate its message. It is also teaming up with various aviation participants in the area – including drone associations – to spread its message and urge operators to use CASA’s Know Your Drone site to improve their understanding of flying rules and restrictions.

As an additional precaution, officials are reminding drone pilots they can and should check to make sure they aren’t about to take off in a restricted area by using one of the CASA-authorized mapping apps. And if that doesn’t work, they’re also warning that offenders will be slapped with an $8,140 fine if caught breaching a no-fly zone.

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