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The number of drones in Australia has risen dramatically in the last year or so, and it's now common to see people flying DJI phantom drones in public places. Many people who see them are curious, and often chat with the drone operator to learn more about flying them. Others are more concerned about a drone invading privacy.
So, are drones good or bad? Excluding military drones, most drones in Australia can be divided into a few types. Toy drones usually fit in one hand, and rarely come with a camera. These small drones for kids only have a very short range of maybe 20 metres, and fly a maximum of 5-10 minutes before needing new batteries. There is no possibility of toy drones invading privacy when they don't have a camera.
An FPV drone is a small drone with a camera to enable the operator to use First Person Video - flying the drone using goggles to display the camera view, instead of flying by sight. Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) drone laws require that a spotter also be present to watch the drone fly without using FPV goggles. FPV drone racing is a popular sport for owners of drones under 2kg, often held in an area specifically set aside for flying drones. An FPV drone racing championship was one of the highlights of the Royal Adelaide Show 2016.
An FPV drone is loud, fast moving, and incredibly maneuverable, allowing them to race in forests or around obstacles easily. Take a look at a video from the Adelaide FPV Drone Racing club meet at Veale Gardens. As you can see, an FPV drone is unsuitable for privacy invasion because it's far too noisy and the camera vision quality is generally low.
The third common variety of consumer drones in Australia is typified by the DJI Phantom drones and the newer model Mavic drone - quadcopters with a wingspan of around 35cm, and fitted with a high quality camera. The drones Harvey Norman and JB Hi Fi sell are sometimes clones of the DJI range, but are similar in capability. These drones are quieter than an FPV drone and much less maneuverable. The cameras are fixed focus without zoom, wide angle and high quality - great for landscape photography.
A Birds Eye View of Frank Smith Park From a Low Flying Drone
The operators of DJI drones and their clones can be responsible for their drones invading privacy, but the fixed camera lens makes close up photography quite impractical without breaking CASA drone laws. Safety regulations require drones to keep at least 30 metres from people and buildings, and at 30 metres the camera cannot zoom in to get any detail. Try taking a family photo from 30 metres away - it looks even worse with a drone camera.
Torrens Island and Mutton Cove From a DJI Phantom 2 Drone
While the DJI drones are not suited for surveillance because of their noise and lack of zoom capabilities, they are magnificent for taking landscape photographs. Consumer drones are awesome for tracking large groups of animals, checking for damage to buildings, and seeing dangerous or inaccessible places.If you asked me "are drones good or bad", I would argue that they are helping and enriching our lives in many ways when they are properly used.
Magnificent Adelaide City Views From Drones Under 2kg
So why do drones make us nervous? People who break CASA drone laws by flying in populous areas, such as over busy beaches or crowded football stadiums should make us all nervous. The DJI Phantom Vision drone is one of the most popular drones in Australia, and weighs around 1.2kg. You would not want a DJI drone to lose power 120m above you, then land on your head!
Unfortunately new flyers of drones under 2kg sometimes don't learn the rules before taking to the air, at times with catastrophic results. The happy couple in the video may rethink whether drones are good or bad.
Drones in Australia: Landscape Photography at the Waite Arboretum
However the drone hysteria found in the media is often generated by politicians with an agenda. The incidence of drones invading privacy is very low, but some parents are extremely sensitive to the presence of cameras around their children. In reality what is overlooked is how other forms of photography can cause far more privacy invasion than drones.
Ultra Zoom Photography: You Don't Need a Drone for an Invasion of Privacy
CCTV cameras are everywhere these days, and have been the cause of many privacy incidents. Ultra zoom cameras make it possible to photograph a distant person almost unnoticed by the naked eye. Drone invasion of privacy is quite insignificant compared to the capabilities of CCTV or a determined stalker with an ultra zoom camera.
DJI Phantom Drones Show the Beauty of the Fleurieu Peninsula
Photos from drones and quadcopters are much loved in Facebook groups. The South Australian Tourism Commission page on Facebook regularly shares drone photos to a great reception. They are increasingly being used to showcase destinations, allowing us awesome views. Next time you see a drone, remember that you're most unlikely to be the subject of drone photography. But if it comes within 30 metres of you or your home, report it to CASA immediately.
It's important when talking about drones to be aware of the difference between toy drones, FPV drone racing quadcopters, and other consumer drones. It will help you have a more informed opinion about them.
So, after reading this article, what do you think? Are drones good or bad?
You are supposed to have a permit to fly a drome - at least in the metropolitan area. There has been an occasion that it was reported to our Police and Member of Parliament at local meeting. We were told we should have called the Police while it was hovering over our houses. In such cases they are definitely a breach privacy. It even hovered directly above a Retirement Village. It is unnerving for the babyboomers and older generations. The one reported was flying fairly high. How is the general public supposed to know whether or not they have cameras on them and what type. It's pretty rude when they used for google search - showing all vehicles and people in a yard.