That time we flew a drone on the airfield
The last thing you’d think you’d spot hovering over the airfield at Perth Airport is a drone – or a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) – as the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), Australia’s national aviation authority, calls it.
Well, you may have spotted one right above our international apron a few months back…
Similar to drones being used for aerial photography in the real estate industry, we decided to document our own real estate – our terminals and aerodrome infrastructure – using a drone. While at first the idea was deemed too difficult, due to the tight restrictions imposed on drones operating near an airfield, we pursued the initiative with the help of our aviation partners, CASA and Airservices Australia, our national air navigation service provider.
As a Commonwealth airport operator, we worked closely with Airservices Australia and CASA to ensure the exercise was safe and did not impact our operations.
We engaged a commercially certified drone operator, Altitude Imaging, who was granted approval by CASA to fly the drone at Perth Airport, with very strict controls in place. One of the most important restrictions was that the drone could only be operated if there were no moving aircraft within 1.5km, which for our 24/7 airport, made things tricky. This meant we only had very small windows of time to fly the drone and could only do so at times when the airport was at its quietest.
Airservices Australia approved our flight plan and on the day, their Air Traffic Controllers were in contact with the drone pilot at all times. The drone pilot even used his own call sign, RPAZ1, which had to be used each time he wanted to take off, land or communicate with the control tower. The exercise was overseen by one of our Airport Operations Officers, whose role is to provide a safe airside operating environment at Perth Airport.
We got some great aerial shots and would like to thank Airservices Australia, CASA and Altitude Imaging for their support.
Check some of them out here:
Flying drones in Australia
Before you reach for the controls and start flying your drone, make sure you know what rules apply.
Generally, drones can’t be flown for money or economic reward without a specific license from CASA, however if flying for fun, then the regulations are less restrictive.
Whatever your reason for flying though, it is an offence to operate an unmanned aircraft in a way that creates a hazard to another aircraft, another person or property.
CASA has many helpful resources to guide you in flying your drone safely and to help you avoid breaking the rules.