Drone use is on the rise, and with them tipped to be more popular than ever this Christmas, we asked drone/UAV pilot Jayden Read of Mile High Aerial Photography to give us some insight into the industry and what you need to know to get started.
What’s your association with the Coffs Coast?
I have lived in Coffs Harbour most of my life. The first time I ever came to Coffs was for a holiday; I was only six years old at the time. Coming from Broken Hill, Coffs Harbour was an amazing place and was definitely a change of scenery from what Broken Hill had to offer.
After visiting Coffs, my parents decided to sell up and move me and my two older brothers, Josh and Johnathon, to here. We have been here for 22 years now and love the coastal living.
What’s a typical day for a drone pilot?
For Josh and myself, a typical day consists of quoting, completing risk assessments, job safety assessments, communication with CASA and AirServices Australia, filming and taking fantastic aerial images. As well as photography and videography, we also use our drone for 3-D mapping, LIDAR surveying, overlay mapping and more. We also do all our editing in-house.
With drone accessibility and technology on the rise, where do you see the industry heading?
Drone technology is getting more advanced every year. I see drones changing the way we do things in the future. But I can also see a lot more accidents happening if CASA and AirServices Australia do not tighten up on some regulations.
Drones are not only used for photography/videography; what are some of the other applications they are used for?
That is correct. Drones are not only used for photography and videography; they are also being used for the following: mapping, surveying, spotting, sporting events, emergency rescue, military, and some countries are even using them to deliver parcels.
Where are some of your favourite spots to fly on the Coffs Coast?
Coffs Harbour is in controlled airspace, which a lot of unlicensed operators don’t understand. Flying within 3 Nautical Miles, which is 5.5 km of our air tower, is not allowed. Even though we are licensed, we still have to operate in certain times and also do radio calls and notify our local tower etc. We love flying in Sapphire Beach and Moonee. We have photographed some amazing high end beachfront properties there.
What are some of the challenges you’re faced with when flying a drone?
One of the challenges we are faced with is the weather. We have also had birds swooping our drones during certain times of the year when the nesting season is on.
Can anyone operate a drone?
As a hobbyist you can operate a drone, although there are still rules and regulations that need to be followed. If you are operating a really small drone under 2 kg for a commercial purpose, you don’t need a ReOC RPA Operator’s Certificate, although you must notify CASA, complete online forms and have an ARN number.
By doing this, it means you are restricted to operating under the standing operating instructions, greatly limiting where and how you can fly.
Also, by not having a ReOC means you will be unlikely to get insurance, leaving you solely liable for any incident or accident arising from flying your RPA/Drone.
Clients/employers are also less likely to hire you if you’re uninsured.
Mile High Aerial Photography have an RPA Operator’s Certificate (ReOC) and also Aeronautical Radio Certificates. This gives us significant privileges, such as:
- Being able to operate larger more commercial drones up to the weight of 27 kg.
- Permission to operate closer than 30 metres from a person
- Night time flying (with night approval)
- Certain Area Approvals and Exemptions
- The ability to get approval to the regulations e.g. beyond-visual-line-of-sight.
- The ability to apply for a range of different additional approvals as well.
What advice can you give to beginner pilots?
For any beginner pilots looking at getting into drones, I would say check the rules and regulations with CASA before flying. Keep safety in mind and have a great time!