Places around metro Melbourne to fly drones & regulations discussion

Hello enthusiastic drone operators, would you suggest some amazing places for drone flying? Best around Melbourne suburbs but anywhere is welcome as I will mark them on maps for future travels.

I found it’s quite hard to find a place to fly, if you want to totally obey the regulations. I’ve got a DJI Mavic Mini for a year. I love drones but now I’m struggling whether or not upgrading to higher models such as Air 2. Just because I found the drone regulations in Australia are too strict, and only very few good places are allowed to fly.

Let’s have a look at these rules.

30 metres away from people and buildings - Always a problem, as people are everywhere in good spots you want to fly at. Even there is nobody around you in this second, how about next minute someone just walk into your 30m range? It’s almost impossible to avoid people, unless you fly above the sea or relocate a place 100km away full of trees and kangaroos (but according to another rule you can’t fly above wildlife either lol). In fact there is no where you can fly in all CBDs. I see many drone operators are constantly ignoring this rule just as jaywalking.

120 metres max altitude - No problem for me but might miss some amazing shoots from high sky, as my drone can fly up to 400 metres.

No night fly - No problem for me. My drone doesn’t have big sensor and aperture so not good for night pictures. Might be an issue for some YouTubers that use good cameras on their drones. But they might have drone license so that’s another category.

Maintain visual line of sight - A big problem. Making the new released DJI mini 2 occusync 2.0 useless as you can’t let it go beyond 500m if you still want to see your tiny drone. Actually I think this rule is very old, it’s for the last century’s remote model plane that does not have any camera on it. But anyway rule is rule.

Only one drone at a time - No problem for me. I only saw some YouTubers operating two drones at a time just for comparison.

No fly over above people - A big problem as mentioned above. Pretty sure no one will hover your drone above someone cuz it’s just impolite and risky. But it’s very possible your drone will fly over someone during its trip, and sometimes you don’t even actually realise that.

No flying in populous area - A big problem as mentioned above. This is also why I’m asking for some good suggestions about where to fly them.

5.5 km away from a controlled airport - No problem for me and a great rule for everyone’s safety.

No fly over emergency operations area - No problem for me. Common sense as you don’t want to help police chasing a running car that carries four terrorists and later receive a million $ bill.

No fly in national parks - Always a problem which makes your sky trip harder even you just escaped from CBD and crowded suburbs. Unfortunately most Australian national parks are gorgeous and ideal for drone videos, but you can’t.

Finally I don't want to discourage any beginners that want to step into drone field, but you might need to think carefully if you really like drones. If you want to follow these strict drone regulations it might be quite difficult to find a good place to fly them. Constantly I found suitable places do not have good scene around. Vice versa. So if anyone could suggest some great places for a comfy drone trip that would be very much appreciated.

I know everyone does jaywalking. It just like people are now riding e-scooters everywhere on the streets. But illegal is illegal, you don’t want to worry about that someone is reporting you when they see your drone around them.

Comments

  • +1

    I'm in Sydney and have a few carefully selected CBD spots that are near water/hills and outside 5.5km.

    As for my experience I generally agree but I find flying away from people to be the easiest set of rules you said you struggle with. I don't take off near people and try to get fairly high to just keep away from people.

    I think the national parks and the line of sight are the two hardest rules. I agree the former locks off so much beauty and the latter seems like it's not significantly more dangerous than line of sight flying (indeed I find flying by eye hard as distance is hard to judge)

    I went to Queanbeyen (as Canberra won't allow us in) and I tried to call a ranger and visit the station to ask if I could fly in one of their parks but noone was around (28th Dec) and so while no signage forbode it I figured it was safer not to. Such a shame

    • +1

      Agree with flying by eyes is harder than by screen and digits. That’s probably why all pilots need metres working on their jets.

      Actually I don’t believe many people will figure out these rules unless they are sort of into drone field. I used to ask police on road whether I can fly drone in CBD and was advised from their knowledge I can, as long as it’s safe to do so but I need to check further drone registrations, which I knew.

      30m distance is the horizontal distance which is really hard to avoid in many nice areas no matter how high you fly. Even you fly above the sea you might still come across some boats nearby lol. Yes line of sight and national parks are hardest rules which might give drones higher chance collecting dust.

  • +1

    I'm in Melbourne too and I use the OpenSky app which will tell you if where you're flying is safe/approved and is also updated with known 'emergency zones' e.g. bushfires etc.

    I have taken off at a beach and flown straight out over the water to not be flying 'over' people and haven't had any issues with it so far. Just fly over the water with the camera angled back at land and you can get some stunning shots while not flying 'over' anyone. Port Melbourne close to sunset, looking back at the CBD is one of my favorites. You'll also be high enough to not be seen as trying to photograph beach-goers.

    National Parks are the biggest bummer as there are some great views and scenes to capture, but it also comes down to how risk averse you are. I've done it several times and again, all good so far.

    Also, you'll find that the CASA rules state that if your drone weighs over 250 grams you need to stay 5.5km away from controlled airports. I also own the Mavic Mini, which comes in at 249 grams (on purpose of course). I'm not sure what that means with regards to being able to fly close to one, but it's probably best to stay away from airports anyway.

    I don't have any specific spots that I could suggest you visit to stay 100% within the rules, but I keep mine fully charged and in the car if I'm going on a day-trip or a fishing trip anywhere. I just check the OpenSky app, if there are no 'red zones' then I'll take off and avoid people as best I can. You'll be fine so long as you're not being silly.

    • did they increase the rule of 5.5kms being 250g? I feel like it used to be over 100g couldn't fly near airports.

    • +1

      Thanks for the advice. Totally agree that Port Melbourne is great for a nice drone trip. I saw many people flying drones there even at night (DJI beep is unique :D ). Because the rules I mostly fly over the sea like St Kilda beach in quiet time. Sometimes I fly at neighbourhood parks and reserves along the Yarra river but you know it might risk breaking the 30m rules, as people / cars / buildings are everywhere.

      I uses OpenSky too but it only checks big rules to decide whether the place is okay to fly. It mostly helped me to identify the heliports. Many rules like 30m distance, national parks and line of sight are still up to your judgement.

      Tbh I’m curious how many people obey the line of sight rule if you got a tiny 2020 drone in your pocket?

      • +1

        Yeah I agree, the 30m distance and line of sight are really up to yourself to manage, but I have noticed OpenSky does tell me if I'm in a national Park area in the areas I've used it (Brisbane Ranges and You Yangs). It may be a recent update.

        Line of sight is honestly the hardest one. The drone is tiny, and very easy to lose track of even at relatively low heights and distances, but again, I've never had anyone pull me up on it.

        Keep it safe and don't annoy anyone with it, and I'm sure you'll find most people won't care :) enjoy!

        • +1

          Haha thanks sure I will. Checked national parks are now supported by OpenSky.

          Literally, you stare at your drone rising high in the sky, then head down look at the screen, then look back at your drone. Congrats you’ve already lost it in your sight. That’s why better painting drone in red or dark colours.

          Just let the rule-making people have some test flies on the latest DJI drones and they will understand why some of the rules need to be amended.

  • +1

    Check out https://opensky.wing.com/
    For maps of restrictions, I am friends with the guy who runs this in Au, and it is an interesting site.

    The rules are a bit restrictive for sensible people, but are really designed to restrict idiots. The vibe is that in coming years there will be systems in place to allow you to register your drone and fly in more controlled airspace (for more sophisticated drones) so the software takes care of lots of air traffic control issues.

    And if you are trying to fly your drone more than half a kilometre away, you are probably being a bit dangerous, as even with on board camera, you can’t get a good idea of the surroundings to be sure you are safe.

    I appreciate people routinely flout the law, but the penalties are pretty severe, and like e-scooters, you would be in a world of pain if you injured somebody while breaching the rules.

    • Yeah saw this on CASA website that drones over 250g will need registration in a coming years. I quite respect the 5.5km rule. It’s currently allowed but still I don’t want to fly for fun in this range, even my drone is just 249g (but with a camera filter and paints that will exceed). Yeah that’s why I didn’t get an e-scooter just because there is a chance you would be billed by a guy that had a terrible day. Don’t think the “everyone rides it” answer could help.

  • +1

    If you're using common sense, just send it.