CASA gives clarity on drone flights near helicopter landing areas: New App to help pilots

Drones are everywhere, you can buy them in all sorts of retail outlets and of course specialty drone stores. But the biggest problem with this booming industry are novice pilots who don’t know the basic rules of where to fly.

Too often I’ve witnessed with my own eyes the lunacy of some who fly their drones in all manner of places that are clearly in breach of the strict Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) regulations, but – in their defense, not detailed in the basic information handed to new drone owners.

When you buy a drone you are told these simple things:

  • You should only fly in visual line-of-sight of your drone – so you can’t wear goggles showing video from the drone.
  • You must not fly closer than 30 metres to vehicles, boats, buildings or people.
  • You must not fly over populous areas such as beaches, heavily populated parks, or sports ovals while they are in use.
  • In controlled airspace, which covers most Australian cities, you must not fly higher than 120 metres (400 feet) above the ground.
  • You must not fly in a way that creates a hazard to other aircraft, so you should keep at least 5.5 km away from airfields, aerodromes and helicopter landing sites

That’s a really great set of five things to know.

The biggest problem is that last point.

There are Helicopter landing sites all over the place, and some you probably don’t even know about.  5.5km radius around every helipad would rule out most major areas for drone flight.

So CASA sought to qualify that last point recently with this advisory diagram.

In addition, a similar update for small airfields

And with that, plus the knowledge that this industry is going to keep on growing, CASA has also announced it will release a new app for pilots in the months ahead.

LISTEN: CASA’s Peter Gibson talks to Trevor Long on Talking Technology:

Developed by the company behind one of the current popular apps Drone Compiler.  Their current app has detailed maps of airports, restricted airspace and helipads across Australia.

CASA went to tender last year to have someone develop a basic no-fly app for them, and while they received several tender responses, the team behind Drone Compiler offered to do it basically for free.  Win Win for taxpayers I say.

The new app will be a basic version of the Drone Compiler app, simply showing if it’s OK to fly where you are, and advising any warnings.

Having looked at their current app it’s outstanding to see so much detail – and how many people are guilty of flying off the headland looking back at Bondi Beach?  Illegal.

North Head.  Illegal.

Who knew! It’s not covered in those five dot points.

So now with this new app, new owners and current drone pilots can have more information to make decisions about where to fly.





  1. Matt

    April 2, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    Thanks for this article. I’ve been looking for this information. I would have thought/hoped this information would have been front & centre on CASA’s website drone page. But after looking for the last 2 days (I have just ordered a drone) all I can find is some warm & fuzzy videos and a confusing mix of hobby/commercial information. I have not seen the above diagrams. I’m guessing it is hiding inside its standard reporting/guidance area that a novice will have no hope of finding.
    If CASA wants compliance it has to make it as easy as possible for people to get & understand the rules. A simple page like yours would go a long way to informing drone pilots. I hope the app will be easy to use as Drone Complier current app has some negative comments about being too complex for a beginner.
    If I’m reading the helicopter diagram correctly, there is no flying within 500m radius (1000m diameter) of landing site. From 500m to 2km radius, the maximum height is 45m. Outside of 2km the max height is the normal 120m.
    For airfields there is no flying within 500m of the runway & 6km of the approach/departure end of the runway strip. I’m not sure what defines the runway strip . Outside of the no fly zone, flying is allowed up to 45m within 4km of the runway. Beyond that it is the normal 120m.
    Have I interrupted that correctly?
    The only other thing I don’t know is the altitude. I gather most if not all aviation references to altitude are to sea level and not above ground. Are these references to sea level or above ground?

  2. Glenn

    June 23, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Hi Trevor, It would be good to see this updated now with images and info from the Can I Fly There app which is now active.
    The images from the old maps in Drone Complier are very different to the current models.

  3. tomas

    October 9, 2017 at 1:17 pm


    Can anyone please shine some light on the subject of Flying drones near HLS for commercial purpose.
    Is there a certain protocol to contact the HLS prior to the flight?
    Let’s say the HLS is outside of 3NM from aerodrome and the mission falls under SOC.
    Thank you ahead for clarification and your time

    • Trevor Long

      October 12, 2017 at 11:57 am

      Us the CASA Can I fly There app – it gives very clear outlines of where you can fly.

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