Tue, Dec 25, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Australia to introduce new technology to crack down on illegal use of drones

AFP, SYDNEY

Australia is to introduce new surveillance technology for a “crackdown” on drones next year, aviation authorities said yesterday, as concerns mount over their increasing prevalence in public areas.

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) plans to roll out new monitoring equipment at major airports across the country next month.

The technology has the ability to identify a drone, its serial number and the location of the controller while in flight, CASA communications manager Peter Gibson told reporters.

“We can identify therefore who is flying it,” he said.

The technology, coupled with new registration requirements, would “dramatically” change the way rules relating to drones are enforced, Gibson added.

Next year “will be a drone safety crackdown,” he said.

While the new equipment has been in planning for some time, the incident last week at London’s Gatwick Airport — which saw nearly 140,000 passengers affected by three days of disruption after reports of drone sightings — “highlights the importance of having this capability,” Gibson said.

The dangers posed by drones include the possibility of a device smashing into a passenger plane or being sucked into an engine where its highly flammable lithium battery could cause a catastrophe.

Officials would also roll out a drone registration scheme in the middle of next year, so that authorities can better track who is flying them and advise of proper safety precautions.

The new mobile tracking technology is to be used in “known drone hotspots,” such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which has seen a concerning rise of drones operating in a restricted area, Gibson said.

Authorities would have greater powers to conduct safety checks, he said, and increased ability to issue fines of up to A$10,000 (US$7,000) for those in breach of the rules.

“In 2019 it could be very expensive doing the wrong thing with your drone,” Gibson said.

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