Emergencies and public spaces

You must consider the people and the environment around you – before you take-off.

Flying near emergencies

You must not fly your drone during emergency operations. Flying your drone near emergencies can cause major safety hazards to response teams in the air and on the ground.

Using your drone to film or see a fire front might be tempting, doing so could hamper emergency services and break the drone safety rules.

If you fly – other firefighting and rescue aircraft can't.

For your safety and others, do not fly your drone during:

  • natural disasters – bushfires, floods, electrical storms, hurricanes and cyclones
  • emergency operations – traffic accidents, tactical response, training or rescue operations.

Check your local fire authority for the latest updates and warnings:

Flying in populous area

You must not fly your drone in a populous area.

A populous area is anywhere people are living or gathered for a purpose. If your drone were to fail and fall, it could pose a risk to the life, safety or property of a person in the area.

A crowded beach, a busy road, a sporting event, a concert or wedding are all populous areas.

You can't fly over people at any time – no matter how high you fly above them.

Major public events are often policed to make sure the public are safe. Leave your drone at home – live in the moment and enjoy these live events.

Many iconic buildings and tourism sites are also located in restricted airspace, making them no-fly areas. For example, Sydney Harbour and surrounding areas.

Flying near airports and helicopter landing sites

Controlled airports

A controlled airport generally has an air traffic control tower. At a controlled airport, there’s a lot of air traffic and strict rules about where you can and can’t fly.

We recommend using a CASA-verified drone safety app to check your location.

If your drone weighs more than 250 g, you must not fly:

  • within 5.5 km (3 NM) of a controlled airport
  • in the approach and departure path of a runway which extends up to 7 km (3.8 NM).

Between 7 km (3.8 NM) and 8.5 km (4.6 NM) of the approach and departure path, you can fly up to a height of 90 m (300 ft).

The image shows a runway at the centre, marked by a white centreline and a green runway strip that is 100 meters wide. The areas around the runway are divided into various zones with specific flying restrictions.
The image shows a runway at the centre, marked by a white centreline and a green runway strip that is 100 meters wide. The areas around the runway are divided into various zones with specific flying restrictions.

If your drone weighs 250 g or less, you can fly up to a height of 45 m (150 ft) within 5.5 km (3 NM) of a controlled airport. However, you must not:

  • fly over or in the approach and departure paths
  • fly in the airport boundary
  • create a hazard to other aircraft taking off or landing.

Measuring distances

We measure these distances from the centreline of the runway. The height or altitude of your drone is measured from the point on the ground or water directly beneath it.

Non-controlled airports

A non-controlled airport does not have an air traffic control tower. Many airports in Australia are non-controlled.

You can fly your drone within 5.5 km (3 NM) of a non-controlled airport and in the approach and departure paths. However, when you become aware of an aircraft, you must:

  • not launch your drone
  • manoeuvre your drone away from the path of the aircraft and land as soon as safely possible.

We measure this distance from the centreline of the runway.

Helicopter landing sites

A helicopter landing site (HLS) is a designated location used by helicopters for taking off and landing.

You can fly your drone within 1.4 km (0.75 NM) of a helicopter landing site. However, when you become aware of a helicopter flying to or from the HLS, or taking off or landing, you must:

  • not launch your drone
  • manoeuvre your drone away from the path of the helicopter and land as soon as safely possible.

We measure this distance from the centre of the HLS.

Flying in national parks and forest reserves

There are more than 600 national parks in Australia covering more than 28 million hectares of land. That's about 10 times the size of Tasmania.

To protect animal and plant life and visitors, many states and territories have rules about using drones in national parks and forest reserves. In many parks and reserves, you must apply to fly.

For safety reasons, a permit is often required for drone use in commercial forests.

Before you fly, you should check your state or territory laws:

There may also be laws that apply to the launching and landing of drones in your local park or sports oval. Check if local laws apply before you fly on council land.

Flying near marine and wildlife

To protect our amazing wildlife, some states and territories have environmental laws you must follow when you fly.

So before taking off, check your local laws and make sure you're doing the right thing.

For example, in New South Wales you must not fly a drone within 100 m of marine mammals. In South Australia, drones must be at least 300 m from any marine mammal.

Eagles, hawks and falcons are not drone fans. If you fly too close, your drone could become their next target – just like this one.

Contact us

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You can contact us through our online enquiry form.

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Last updated:
25 Jul 2023
Online version available at: https://www.casa.gov.au//drones/drone-rules/emergencies-and-public-spaces
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