[LINK] Evaluation of CASA's Proposed Drone Registration Scheme

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Thu Mar 28 10:06:42 AEDT 2019

CASA's been forced to finally do something about drone control, a good 
five years after it became quite clear that action was needed:

I canvassed options for regulating drones here, back in 2015:

In order to run the ruler over CASA's announcement of 27 Mar 2019, I 
checked their home-page, used their (dysfunctional) search facility, and 
looked at their consultations, media releases, speeches and 
presentations and latest-updates pages.  I found nothing.

This assessment is therefore based on the ABC interview and article. 
(All other media coverage so far appears to be merely derivative).

The announcement is somewhat vague, but the features appear to be:

-   people who want to fly a drone >250gm will need to:
     (a)  complete an online training course
     (b)  register themselves and their drone(s?)
     (c)  pay a fee

-   CASA will store that data, and use it to (a) extract stats, and
     (b) investigate complaints because "We'll have a starting point to
     know who flies drones in that area, what sort of drone they fly"

Is this just an ad hoc announcement in knee-jerk response to recent 
media coverage?

Or has CASA really sat down and done some serious strategising, and 
worked out what the elements are that can achieve the objectives?

A back-of-the-envelope statement of objectives might be:
(a)  achieve achievable value and let people have fun
(b)  limit the various forms of harm
(c)  soothe the many ruffled feathers of people and avian species

The downsides that need to be managed include:
-    physical harm to people
-    physical damage to property
-    noise nuisance to people and animals
-    observation and recording of people
-    use of information arising from observation and recording of people
-    disclosure of such information

Here's a list of the differences that drones make to surveillance:

Many of these arise primarily from the use of large drones by the media, 
corporations, government agencies and law enforcement;  but some of them 
are also relevant to small drones and personal use.

The ignorant, the negligent and those with ill-intent won't take any 
notice of a drone registration scheme.  The criminal law and police 
action have to be used to address the risks arising from those kinds of 
drone usage.

The target-zone for an administrative regulatory scheme needs to be the 
majority of the (mostly) law-abiding public.  The gentler levels of 
regulatory action need to be applied in order to educate and to 
encourage responsible behaviour.  Enough evidence is then needed of 
teeth, so that people take it seriously;  hence registration, and the 
credible threat of enforcement.

Based on that brisk assessment, the scheme, as outlined in the media 
(and in the absence of anything concrete published by CASA), appears to 
be missing a lot of important elements:

-   specific requirements of manufacturers, importers and retailers,
     in relation to:
     -   safety features designed into drones
     -   an id-broadcast feature designed into drones
     -   scope for additional data-broadcast such as attributes (e.g.
         'yes, I can hover') and location, speed and planned course:
     -   information that must be provided to customers

-   a process for delivering meaningful training courses, and
     connecting intending purchasers and pilots with those courses

-   means of drawing intending purchasers and pilots into communities
     that use aircraft, and understand and address the risks involved

-   monitoring mechanisms of id-transmissions in key areas.  That's
     mainly airports, but other contexts are bound to arise.  It's
     necessary for regulatory credibility that the means is known to
     exist to identify drones that are the subject of complaints (e.g.
     through the existence of a 'flying squad' of drone id-detectors)

-   compulsory third party insurance

-   a coherent, comprehensive and balanced regulatory framework for
     surveillance using drones (but preferably for surveillance
     generally, including using drones):

Roger Clarke                            mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
T: +61 2 6288 6916   http://www.xamax.com.au  http://www.rogerclarke.com

Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA 

Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Law            University of N.S.W.
Visiting Professor in Computer Science    Australian National University

More information about the Link mailing list