$850 Drone fine: CASA using YouTube to identify illegal drone use

If you’ve got a drone and haven’t been keeping a close eye on the regulations that outline where and when you can fly it – be very careful. Uploading videos taken from your drone to the internet could result in the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) sending you a hefty fine.


One Queensland drone pilot found this out the hard way, after receiving an $850 fine for his drone use – all based on videos he had uploaded to YouTube.

Infringement Notice


The owner – who does not wish to be named, received a phone call from a CASA investigator notifying him of multiple breaches. Each of which could have resulted in an $850 fine. In the end his single $850 fine was a lucky break with the CASA investigator stating, “while each individual breach was not major in itself, the number of breaches has caused me concern”.

CASA regulations state that hobbyists who fly for no commercial gain cannot fly their drones:

  • Within 3 nautical miles of an airport;
  • Above 400 feet in controlled airspace (large towns and cities);
  • Over populous areas;
  • Within 30 meters of people;
  • At night.

The most popular drone on the market, the DJI Phantom – has software built into it that can prevent it taking off near airports and limit its height. The problem seems to be the owners who want to toy with the regulators, because they think no-one is watching.


For this Queensland owner, the specific offence outlined in this infringement was “operating a model aircraft over a populous area at a height less than the height from which, if any of its components fails, it would be able to clear the area.”

So does CASA have staff watching online videos to find offenders?  Peter Gibson, spokesperson for CASA told EFTM, “I’m not going to pretend we sit there every day trawling through YouTube because that would be ridiculous. However, where we see things, or where people bring things to our attention then we will investigate”.

The fines can range anywhere from $850 for breaches of the basic guidelines, right through to $8,000 for “reckless operation”, with Mr Gibson pointing out “if you injure someone, CASA can also seek prosecution.

We’re not trying to penalise people, but if you behave stupidly, then you certainly run the risk”.

When the fine was sent this week, it also had attached a set of “Facts and Circumstances”. This document outlined the reasons for the fine, including that CASA had been alerted to the videos, which prompted their investigation.

Facts and Circumstances

In its “Decision” section there is reference to the fact that it’s a “counselling letter”.  Do it again, and CASA will “draw the conclusion that you have a wilful disregard for aviation safety, and the regulator will respond accordingly”.

Facts and Circumstances

The drone in question has already appeared for sale on online classifieds site Gumtree, and one can only assume this fine has scared the flights out of this pilot.

LISTEN: EFTM’s interview with Peter Gibson from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority



  1. Nic Wilson

    August 14, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    I think CASA are way out of line here. they make confusing statements, then are not clear about what was wrong, then in the infringement they use terms like “Height less than” yet there is an upper limit of 120 meters but there are NO lower limits, so how can one fly “At a height less than”. Fining in the first offence when the user was forthcoming, and they said they believed he did not fully know what he had done wrong so they informed him further is just blatant revenue raising. All I take from this is dont post your videos for vultures to see.

  2. DronesinAus

    December 5, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    Regulations are required as Drones can cause harm. Pilots should not fly over over people because if drone crashes over someone – it can cause injury or death. Its common sense.

    • Trevor Long

      December 5, 2015 at 9:10 pm

      CASA regulations state you can’t fly over crowds.. What is your point?

  3. Sir Adelaide

    March 18, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    The Civil Aviation Safety Authority funnily enough takes aviation safety seriously. A rock falling from 100 m could kill someone, and so could a drone. A drone in a aircraft jet intake could kill many people.

    Things do go wrong. Especially when people are mucking around and having fun with toys. So it’s important that there are regulations.

    Thankfully the regulations for toy/model aircraft are pretty easy to understand:

    CASA didn’t sneak these regulations in to blind side anyone. It’s common sense that you need to find out the rules about your hobby before you do anything in public, whether it’s horse riding, playing golf, or water skiing. I think CASA was being very fair and reasonable to issue only one fine to cover multiple breaches.

    @Nic regarding ‘height less than’: If the drone had been a glider and it was very high, then it might glide away from population before hitting the ground. Example, if operated over a tiny country town hundreds of meters up. In this situation, there is a minimum safe height. This concept doesn’t really apply to drones with rotors, which will fall instead of gliding if they lose power. CASA are just saying that the provision of being high enough to be safe that applies to gliders doesn’t apply here, i.e. the drone would still be in a populated area when it hit the ground.

  4. Judy McDougall

    April 6, 2016 at 7:13 am

    Exactly. This rule has been around forever and it only provokes those who do not understand the safety issues associated with it and wishing to evade the .responsibilities by just flying anywhere and anytime. This is so not acceptable.

    Even all the major clubs have to notify CASA if they are flying on a fly day / fun day and outside of that timeframe for obvious commonsense reasons.

    If you want to have and own big boys toys you have to be responsible enough to know the legalities of your hobbies.
    To late after you have lost control and someone is injured or killed, or a plane has been disable because you are on the frequency.

    Take care, have fun by all means but obey the rules. If not then yes you deserve to pay the consequences as does anyone.

  5. Robert Fisher

    April 6, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    No mention of whether the gentleman in question had a spotter present. Also was this person a member of a club, and where did the offence occur. Some feed back like this would be helpful. As a member of MAAA through my clubs affiliation I believe that Peter Gibson was being extremely courteous in his action. There has to be a lot of Quads (note) out there owned by the general public. We could be like the USA.

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