The New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), part of the Office of Environment and Heritage, uses drones in national parks for many purposes, including:
- search and rescue activities
- controlling weeds and pest animals
- monitoring beach erosion
- photographing heritage assets.
But flying private drones in parks can annoy visitors and disturb animals. Drones can also dangerously interfere with fighting bushfires and with other activities for managing parks. For these reasons their use in parks is restricted.
The using drones in national parks factsheet (PDF 204KB) outlines the policy requirements that must be met by people who use drones in parks.
What is a drone?
Other terms for a drone are:
- unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)
- remotely piloted aircraft.
Are drones a type of aircraft?
Yes. Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) regards drones as aircraft. Drones are therefore covered by the Commonwealth Civil Aviation Act 1988 and the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 (CASR).
If you fly a drone you must ensure that it is airworthy, and that it is flown safely and in accordance with the law (CASR Part 101 (PDF 339KB).
When can I fly a drone in a park?
1. An NPWS area manager may grant consent for the recreational use of a drone if:
- it will not annoy or cause risk to visitors, or invade their privacy
- it will not be a nuisance or cause risk to wildlife
- it will not interfere with park-management operations.
You can fly a drone only in the area covered by the consent.
2. Park managers can inform visitors that consent is required to use drones by:
- putting signs at a park entrance or inside the park
- giving visitors a written notice
- speaking to visitors.
3. If you have permission to fly a drone, before you start flying you should check the alerts page of the NPWS visitor website. This page tells you about park closures or fires and floods affecting parks.
A park may be closed or access to it restricted if the fire-danger rating is very high or above.
4. If you have permission to fly a drone, you should follow the guidelines from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority for recreational drone use. These say that drones must:
- always be in sight of the operator
- not fly over populous areas
- stay at least 30 metres from other people, vehicles, boats and buildings
- stay at least 5.5 kilometres from an airfield.