Australia to set up drone-identifying systems


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Drone “hot spots” in Australia are getting sensors to automatically identify the aircraft and their pilots.

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (Casa) said it would install the equipment at the nation’s airports starting next month.

The monitors have been planned for some time, but come in the wake of 72 hours of drone-related disruption at the UK’s Gatwick airport last week.

In 2019, Australia will also start a scheme to register drone owners.

Heavy fines

Almost 140,000 air travellers were delayed last week after reports of drone sightings caused huge delays at Gatwick Airport. UK police are still searching for the culprits, although they have also raised the possibility that witness reports of the aircraft were mistaken.

The incident “highlights” the need for a drone-spotting capability, Casa spokesman Peter Gibson told the news agency Agence France-Presse.

The surveillance system would be able to spot the types of drone being flown, read their serial numbers and work out where the pilot was located, he said.

Efforts to identify pilots would be aided by the introduction of the registration scheme for commercial and casual drone owners, he added.

“2019 will be a drone safety crackdown,” said Mr Gibson.

As well as airports and other sensitive locations, the drone-spotting systems will be installed in other places known to be popular with drone owners such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Authorities in Australia have expressed worries about the number of drones being flown in restricted areas in recent months.

Anyone breaking rules could face fines of up to 10,000 Australian dollars ($7,058; £5,600) as well as checks on the safety of their craft.

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

Events at Gatwick are expected to be discussed by ministers in a Christmas Eve phone conference during which they may consider extending a planned registration initiative for drone owners.

At present, it is proposed that a scheme due to be introduced in November would not require that recreational drones weighing under 250g (0.55lb) to be registered.


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