The Civil Aviation Safety Authority expects thousands more drones to be in the air after the gift-giving Christmas period but dated legislation means there are limited rules stopping prying eyes from entering your property.
When it comes to drone regulations, CASA only provides safety protocols, including being more than 30m from people, keeping the drone within line of sight and avoiding airports. Despite the rise in drones, rules surrounding privacy incidents still remain unclear.
The Privacy Act only gives protection to organisations turning over at least $3 million each year. Partner at HWL Ebsworth Lawyers, Matthew Craven, said it could still be questionable whether taking video footage from a distance was collecting personal info.
Even trespassing may be tough to argue, he said.
"The other avenue is if they are trespassing on your property, if they stand on your property when flying it, but if you are just flying a drone over private property, there is no clear guidelines on when is that amount (of height) classed as trespass," he said.
He said many of these new technology situations weren't anticipated at the time the laws were made.
"I think eventually the penny might drop at some point,” he said.
“It just needs to be a couple of big incidences to occur where someone has clearly had privacy infringed even if not in legal terms but in the public they think it is.”
CASA corporate communications manager, Peter Gibson, said their safety rules always applied but they weren’t relevant to issues like privacy, trespass and separate legal matters which needed to be taken up with other authorities.
“If you are flying a drone in town, you may breach one of our safety rules,” he said.
“Of course when we talk about rural, if there is no-one there you aren’t going to breach the 30m people rule or flying near an airport.”
A recent example of privacy issues surrounding drones came in November last year during an ABC story alleging north Queensland’s Warren and Gail Jonsson had illegally logged 60 hectares of land on their Mt Garnett property, Wombinoo.
The story was centred around drone footage of the property, submitted by the Wilderness Society.
Speaking with the Queensland Country Life at the time, Mr Jonsson said it was his understanding that a member of the Wilderness Society had come onto the property in the month prior to the story airing and, using a drone, filmed an area of cleared land.
“I said to him (the reporter) he shouldn’t use the footage because there were allegations that weren’t true and he should contact the appropriate authorities to get the right story,” he said.
Under CASA’s most recent rules, a farmer looking to use a drone (under 25kg) on their own property simply needs to undertake a three-step registration process online.
If the drone is used for commercial purposes, such as paid mustering work on another property, the pilot needs to obtain a license and certification.
Among those flying them is Wallumbilla cattleman and trucking business owner, Mick Johnson, who purchased a Mavic Pro drone during a local field day about 12 months ago.
Mr Johnson operates a cattle operation on properties at Wallumbilla and Yuleba with Angus bulls crossed over Charolais Santa cows, with the aim of selling off feeder cattle.
His decision to purchase a drone for his property is one he doesn’t regret, using the small aircraft to spot cattle, check waters and most recently, measuring fence lines for strainers.
Mr Johnson said with so many drones now in use it was important that people used them for the right purposes.
“When I bought it the guy said whatever your imagination is, it can do it,” he said.