Drones: No longer child’s play

CASA move makes drones more accessible for farmers


News
An aerial photo of the Mystery Park homestead taken from the drone.

An aerial photo of the Mystery Park homestead taken from the drone.

Aa

The Australian Government Civil and Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has moved to amend laws to reduce the cost and legal requirements for flying a remotely controlled aircraft as the uptake of drones in agriculture continues to rise.

Aa

They were once made of plastic, designed for children under the age of 12 and took standard D cell batteries. Now drones can come equipped with features like obstacle sensors, a 5km range, high definition cameras and various flight modes.

Rapidly, they are taking the world by a storm and farmers are catching on, using them for day-to-day property management. 

As usages grows, the Australian Government Civil and Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has moved to amend the laws to reduce the cost and legal requirements for flying a remotely controlled aircraft. 

There will be a new category for private landowners to be legally allowed carry out commercial-like operations on their own land with a remote controlled aircraft (RPA) up to 25kg.

 Andrew McArthur showing Dad how it is done

Andrew McArthur showing Dad how it is done

Previous, landholders required a commercial license, costing thousands of dollars.

Dale Winter, owner of Camerahouse in Rockhampton, has been stocking DJI Phantom drones since the beginning of the year and says the new laws should spark a big increase in sales.

“I have been selling drones in my store since January this year and since then I have sold about 80 drones,” he said.

“I probably sell around three to four a week and most of these are to farmers.”

“Once one gets one, they tell their neighbour and they all want one.”

“They are using them for all sorts of things from herding cattle to checking fences,”

“It is incredible the amount of things they can do.”

Ainsley and Rob McArthur, Mystery Park, have been using a drone on their property for the past 18 months and haven’t looked back.

“It is not a bad investment when you compare the price of a drone to a four-wheeler and what you can do with it,” Ainsley said.

“We’ve blocked 600 head of cattle from getting through a gate sitting quite far away.”

Not only does the drone entertain their young family but also creates an ease of everyday chores.

“Our eldest son Andrew has taken ownership of the drone and loves flying it,” Ainsley said.

“We bought it to explore and see what it could do.”

“One of the most exciting things we use it for is for moving the cattle but it also gives us the ability to check the lick blocks, tanks, pipes and fence lines.”

A coastline property, Mystery Park is covered with coastal ironbark country and island flats.

The McArthurs say the drone has proved very handy in checking flood fencing. 

The DJI Phantom 3 live video feed tracking the cattle.

The DJI Phantom 3 live video feed tracking the cattle.

“We have 72 fences to check and that can be a lot to get through,” Ainsley said.

“Instead of having to climb down each flood fence and check them individually, we have been able to just fly over it and check it.

“We have also used it for grass monitoring and checking ground cover,”

“You could fly over and think oh god, I thought there was more grass in there than that,” she said.

An avid believer in technology, Ainsley McArthur sees the future of farming moving more and more towards technology.

“Where I see the future being is all the technology tying together and using one big main dashboard,” Ainsley said.

Andrew McArthur, 13, uses the drone blocking cattle from the cab of the ute.

Andrew McArthur, 13, uses the drone blocking cattle from the cab of the ute.

“It’s sounds scary but it definitely possible.”

As of the 29th September, private landowners will only need to notify CASA five business days before flying using the online form available at www.casa.gov.au and adhere to the operate standards.

Under the prescribed operating standards:

-          You must not fly in a way that creates a hazard to another aircraft, person or property.

-          You must fly during the day and keep the RPA within visual line of sight.

-          You must not fly higher than 120 above ground level.

-          Fly 30 metres away from other people.

-          Fly 5.5km away from controlled airports.

-          You must not fly over populous areas.

-          You can only fly one RPA at a time.

-          You must not fly over an area affecting public safety or where emergency operations are underway with prior approval. 

Rob McArthur getting a turn testing out the drone on the cattle.

Rob McArthur getting a turn testing out the drone on the cattle.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by