29 Jan 2015

How I Followed CASA Rules

CASA, Civil Aviation Safety Authority, rules, drone, quad, copter, flying, remote control, rc
CASA - Flying With Control


When I got my first quadcopter, I looked for ‘rules of flying in Australia’.  I was led to CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) website.  There are many information from news, rules, guidelines, applying for license etc.  The one I was looking for is in a convenient PDF file that I can download / print and read.  I was referring to this:

CASA, Model Aircraft - Flying With Control

The rules are for those first time flyers who want to get into this hobby and hopefully shape them to think ‘Safety First’.  So I broke down the rules one by one and plan my approach to each.  Below is the result of my planing:



CASA, Civil Aviation Safety Authority, rules, drone, quad, copter, flying, remote control, rc
CASA - Get to Know the Rules


Able to fly ‘line of sight’, it should not go too far from you

DJI’s software covers this.  Open DJI Phantom Assistant and ensure you're in 'Phantom' Mode. Look at the upper right hand side of the software and it should say 'Phantom'.  If not, please follow these steps:

Change 'Naza M' mode to 'Phantom mode:

  1. Click 'Naza M'
  2. Continue to click 'OK' all the way through 
  3. It should change to 'Phantom'


Set Maximum Radius:

  1. Click on 'Advanced' tab
  2. Click on 'Limits' tab
  3. Select the 'Meter' units
  4. Click 'Distance Limits' tab
  5. on the 'Max Radius' field, put your distance

You should be able to set the maximum distance between yourself and the Phantom.  It’s pretty convenient.  Just make sure that the distance you've entered is the distance you can fly the drone with ‘line of sight’.  If you don’t have this kind of feature in your software, flying a different flight controller or simply does not exist, then you need to fly your drone close to you.  When I first started flying, I removed my FPV (First Person View).  This way, I’ll be forced to fly line-of-sight.

Removing my FPV also helps me to understand the controls better.  It made me visualise the controls depending on where my quad copter is facing.  For first time flyers, I also recommend flying without FPV as it’s safer.  Don’t do any daredevil manoeuvres yet.  I found this link to be helpful: DJI New Pilot Training Guide (Earning Your Stripes)


30 meters away from people

I choose a location with no people around.  There are parks in my area that people don’t go to.  If people suddenly appeared, they are mostly joggers going around the perimeter.  I drive around different spots and scout my chosen location.  This way, I know if a park or area is less visited by people.  I made sure that the park itself is big and wide.  It’s important to know where you can fly.  Busy streets, apartments, highways and many many more are out of the question. 

Before I fly, I made sure that there were no people around.  I don’t fly when people are nearby, it just scares the hell out of me.  If I see people, especially those who’d love a quick chat, I bring my drone down and turn it off.  This way I'm not worried about having my fingers rest on the controller.  I'm not worries that my quad copter would drift and hit something, or someone.


30 meters away from vehicles, houses, boats, buildings

This is the same with people.  I tried to find a vacant field that is away from these things.  I don’t want my quad copter flying over a vehicle and falling over.  It’ll be expensive.  You can go to Google Maps and measure the area you’re flying.  You’ll gauge how far you can fly.


5.5 kilometres away from airports

I'm not near the airport so I'm not that concerned.  But if I'm near to one, I’ll go to Google Maps again and try to make a triangulation of the park and the airport.  If it’s 5.5 kilometres away, then that’s not an issue.  If the park is 5.5 kilometres within, then I’ll have to go further and find another park.  A friend of mine did this.  He verified that his home is 2.5 km from the nearest airport.  Thus for him, he needs to drive away to a location beyond 5.5 km.

Also remember that airports are high with signals and radio frequency.  They can easily interrupt your signal and you’ll lose control of your drone.  You don’t want that drone to be flying straight into an airplane!  A friend of mine was shooting off camera flash near the airport using Yongnuo 622C and Pocketwizard FlexTT5.  Neither both worked.  Yes, he could not use any of them!  But after the shoot and arriving home, he tested both again with no issues at all.  Imagine that to be a drone flying straight and loses control, ouch!


120 meters maximum flight height

DJI’s Phantom Assistant software enables you to set the maximum flying height for the Phantom.  Again, you need to be in 'Phantom' mode.  Please refer above if you're at 'Naza M' mode.

Follow the steps above for Maximum Radius, but instead of changing the maximum radius, change the 'Max Height' value to 120 meters.  In my case I just put ‘100’.  This way, I still have 20 meters buffer if the wind goes upward.  At the same time, the maximum height I usually fly is around 50 meters. 

The DJI Phantom has a very slower descending speed compared to other movement speeds.  So if it’s about 100 meters high and 300 meters away, you should consider this distance especially if you’re running low on battery.


Don’t fly on populous area such as beach, park, backyard, ovals

If you take into account rule #1, then you should not worry about this.


Don’t fly at night;

Lights under the Phantom’s arms are not an excuse to fly at night.  You maybe able to see the Phantom's lights, but you won’t be able to see the branches, electric wires, canopies, etc that your Phantom is flying to.  For DIY drones without lights, this is more challenging!  To ensure, don’t fly at night.  I don’t.


Don’t fly commercially if you're not licensed

I don't fly commercially.  My goal is to add more arsenal to my landscape photography.  If I'm very good at flying, I may consider flying commercially.  



Final Thoughts

Different countries have different rules regarding UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle).  It's the buyer / pilot's responsibility to know and abide them.  Thus the first thing to do after buying these drones should be to research about the rules, regulations and policies.

To summarise what I did:

  • I configured my drone, through DJI Phantom Assistant, to fly at certain limits
  • Know where to fly and when to fly
  • Practice!  Don't act though you're a Guru, if you're not

Once you know them, you can make plans so that you don't accidentally break any of them. 

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