Insurers are worried about new Australian drone laws which come into force today

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QBE, Australia’s largest aviation insurer, says the relaxation in rules covering the operation of drones in Australia creates liability issues for hobbyists who suddenly switch to commercial uses for the remotely piloted aircraft.

New rules cutting the cost and red tape of operating small commercial drones take effect from today. Commercial drones with a maximum take-off weight of less than two kilograms no longer need to apply for a certificate and licence from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Previously, commercial usage required operators to hold both a Remote Operators Certificate and a Remote Pilot Licence. The new regulations only require operators to register with Civil Aviation Safety Authority five days in advance and adhere to existing safety rules.

“We’re expecting to see a steep rise in the number of RPAs (remotely piloted aircraft) in use as businesses realise the potential of using them, but there is a worrying lack of understanding that there are still major risks associated with drones,” says Simon Hooper, specialist aviation underwriter at QBE.

“Given many operators won’t have had extensive training, if any, this presents a genuine risk, which could leave operators exposed. The cost associated with an injury or property damage could go into the millions — in the worst case, they could lose everything.”

Lee Carseldine, chief pilot of Droneit, Brisbane-based experts in aerial photography and filming, says hobbyists thinking they can start using small drones in the workplace should be aware of the risks.

“While the new rules and regulations might be exciting for all drone users especially for hobbyists who can use commercially now, you need to define how you want to use them,” Carseldine says.

“Trust me, when it comes to drones they are fickle machines and gravity does not discriminate. Two kilos might seem small, but they can still do a lot of damage.”

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