Drone users in Australia could get hit with annual fees from CASA- Make sure you have your say.

So if you use a drone in Australia you might soon have to pay a sh*t tone of fees to CASA’s  with their proposed registration scheme in Australia which would potentially see hobbyist have to pay $20 a year to use a drone,  and even worse is “commercial” operators could have to pay up to $160 per year / per drone!

Comparison to USA fees:

Australia: Proposed Registration Fee –

Commercial Use:    $165.00 Per Year   |    Hobbyists:  $20.00

USA: Current Registration Fee –

Commercial Use:   $5.00 for 3 years   | Hobbyists:  Free

Big business might be fine with this but everyone from small businesses, who may only use drones casually within their business, (like tourism operators, farmers etc) Through to micro business like part time photographers, vloggers / bloggers (who may only be making a few dollars a year online or through YouTube monetisation, will be stung by the fees.

Personally having a family run video business we  use drones an average of maybe once per month – to get a few seconds of footage if needed. With the 2 drones we have this would be as much as $320.00 per year! If I include the done I built for a YouTube video (which has made about $45.00 with YouTube monetisation – still likely considered “Commercial” use ) our expense would be $480.00 per year.  Plus I have two kids that occasionally fly as a hobby so that is another $40.00. Total family drone fees: $520.00  per year.

How will it improve safety? It won’t it will make things worse.

The best thing CASA can do (and has done pretty well up to this point) is educate the public, however charging any kind of fee (commercial or hobby) is going to push a huge amount of drone users “underground”. If they are not in a free database of users they won’t be educated on safety – especially new users.

Keeping in mind  that anyone intent on doing some kind of malicious terrorist act with a drone is still going to attempt it, However it will now be easier for them.

CASA will be fueling a demand for drones , hacks and flight practices allowing (what would normally be safe) drone enthusiasts  to “fly off the grid” to avoid the expense. This information and technology would then be far more accessible to some deranged person who wants to do something stupid like fly into an airport.

What I would really like to see CASA do going forward:

  • Free online course for accreditation (as proposed)
  • No fees plus any free registration should be individuals not per drone – that’s way too impractical to manage, drones are a cheap consumer electronic not a car. Imagine in the future having to keep track of registration when selling or disposing of an old one.
  • Realise that the drone novelty phase has peaked and is now starting to decline. i.e. authorities should calm down a little.  Increasingly the majority of drone flights will be more purposeful use by regular & better educated users rather than idiots with a new toy. I mean just look at Gumtree, it is filling with more and more ads for drones with descriptions like “selling because hardly ever use it now. It happened with GoPro – everyone seems to own one once, but then realise they don’t actually have much use for it.

One a side note:

  • Also CASA should omit management for any sub 2kg drone use that’s used below  say 10 (or 20) meters above the ground (ie below  tree level) –   Why is an aviation authority wasting money and resources on managing drone use for say a vlogger using a 400 gram drone in Tripod mode for a selfie. This should be common sense safety -a kite surfer doing a jump or a portable gazobo not pegged down on a windy day is far more dangerous and we seem to manage these risks at a local level just fine.
  • Modify the “not fly within 30 meters of people” rule to include “unless individuals give their consent” If an individual whats to do something that could potentially hurt them and it doesn’t effect anyone else ( Like ride a bike, use a swing at a park or play pretty much any kind of sport)  that should be their free choice.    This rule actually makes me feel embarrassed for Australia whenever I explain it to people.

Anyway that is my rant of sorts…

CASA’s proposed drone registration scheme is currently open for public comment. Make sure you have your say with their online survey: https://consultation.casa.gov.au/regulatory-program/pp1816us/

My daughter helping with filming of my Cooler Drone video. 


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