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Western Australia Leading the Way on Drone Use in National Parks in Australia

The use of quadcopters in national parks and reserves here in Australia is a contentious one. There are of course national rules that govern how and when quadcopter owners can fly, but there are also rules at a state level, particular within each state-based parks authority. For instance, in Victoria, there are incredibly restrictive rules in place that effectively ban the casual use of UAVs within parks outright. In NSW you’re supposed to get permission before you fly in a national park but in reality nobody actually does and (given that nothing untoward has ever resulted from this) NSW parks seem fairly relaxed about actually enforcing it. In Commonwealth Parks (nationwide) UAVs are banned outright. However the Western Australia Park authorities are leading the way in common-sense rules regarding the use of drones in the skies above those lands, as per their recently announced policy. Here’s part of the official announcement:
Given that RPA use is managed under other legislation which applies anywhere in Australia, it is not considered necessary to duplicate regulation of this activity by amending the CALM Regulations to include RPA. Furthermore, if RPA use creates a nuisance or annoyance to other visitors, regulations 72 or 73 of the CALM Regulations may be invoked. These regulations allow an authorised officer to direct a person to stop an activity where it is causing disturbance or annoyance to other persons or is considered dangerous, and prohibit a person from acting in a way that is likely to cause nuisance or annoyance to other persons on the land. There are also provisions under the Biodiversity Conservation Regulations 2018 to create separation distances between RPA and prescribed fauna. In consideration of the above, DBCA has determined to cease administering the requirement for people to apply for and be granted lawful authority to use RPA for recreational purposes on CALM Act land. The change of policy in relation to recreational use of RPA will be positively received by RPA users and tourists. It is considered unlikely that the change will create a concern for the general public. The management of recreational RPA will be reconsidered if the lack of regulatory ability under the CALM Regulations is creating issues for safety, management or the conservation of park values.
I can only applaud these authorities for creating such a level-headed and sensible policy – it is precisely the sort of thing that drone fliers have been crying out for, for years. In a nutshell it says that it’s fine to fly a drone in the park, unless it’s creating a nuisance, and if it is then you will get asked to stop by park authorities. It really doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that and is about 1000 times more sensible than the draconian and needlessly restrictive rules in Victoria. We can only hope that the park authorities in the rest of Australia realise that these devices are no threat to anyone or anything and that banning them is over-reach and bureaucratic nonsense. Quadcopters have been shown to have no impact on wildlife and no impact on the flora and fauna, so there is no need to ban them.


  1. Rick Reckit Constantin

    Is any of this confirmed because I can not find anything on a written level on the DPAW site. This time of year is perfect.

  2. Peter Hill

    It would be a good thing to see commonsense applied to National Parks on a consistent national basis, not least because overseas visitors wanting to use drones often get confused about the different state rules applying to so-called “national” parks.

    In NSW, I think you’ll find a change in the wind at the NPWS. Where I live, in the Blue Mountains NP, anyone attempting to fly a drone at a lookout such as Echo Point, Govetts Leap (just down the road from the NPWS office btw), or Wentworth Falls will soon find themselves in a spot of bother. These are high visitor volume areas where drone use is not tolerated or permitted.

    The permission side of things, however, is OTT. A written application, for starters, no less than 10 days before flight time, plus the requirement to specify longitude and latitude coordinates of desired flight locations, to name a few of the requirements. Little wonder many operators can’t be bothered.

  3. Anthony

    Having just travelled through numerous WA National parks, I can tell you that no one there has received the memo. I had nothing but resistance

  4. David Holz

    i wonder why casa are not the governing authority , full stop .. and that way there app can be the easy bible for all drone users, if councils or other bodies want to exclude drones, then they apply to casa to have the area added to app as a restricted or non fly zone

  5. Rolf

    I’m just back from a 9 week trip trough the WA National Parks. My experiences are consistent with those of Anthony.

    During the preparations I submitted an application for a permit to fly drones to Parks and Wildlife. I received a reply saying that this was no longer necessary with a link to the DPAW Website.
    While travelling, in all but one NP we visited I was informed, that flying a drone is strictly not allowed.

    Back in Switzerland I can’t resist a nasty comment:
    a) the Website is just a fake or
    b) there is no communication between DPAW and the parks

  6. Dominique Griffiths

    I am deeply concerned about the impact of drones on wildlife. They look like a bird of prey and must be viewed by most animals as one. I have seen entire colonies of birds disturbed by drones and wonder what happens to chicks in the nest when parents fly away in fear. I have heard of Wedge-tailed eagles attacking a drone so they obviously thought it was a competing bird of prey. I firmly believe that drones should be banned from wildlife reserves and national parks which were all created for the protection of the environment.

    • tenthousandshots

      Yes, sea eagles have been known to attack drones, though I’ve had mine in close proximity to them several times in the past (not deliberately I hasten to add) and they were completely unbothered by my presence. I’ve been flying drones for about four years now and in my experience the wildlife is utterly indifferent to them. Drones are used extensively by the teams making wildlife documentaries such as the shows David Attenborough narrates – is it your contention that those teams would fly drones if they thought there would be negative outcomes for the wildlife? Scientists are using drones extensively too – to study areas of wilderness, for mapping and observation purposes both on land and at sea and in fact one team of scientists are flying drones through whales ‘blow’ mere metres above them. The bottom line is that regulations regarding the use of drones and the alleged negative impact on wildlife is purely conjecture – the only science that has been done demonstrates conclusively that the wildlife is not affected by the drones. Furthermore, as the technology improves, the drones are getting quieter and quieter anyway. I put it to you that allowing the hugely destructive 4WD vehicles and horses and mountain bikes in national parks is infinitely more destructive and disruptive to the natural environment than a small drone flown briefly high above the landscape.

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