Authorities clearing drones from Santa's path for Christmas

Editor’s note: Santa drone images available via Hightail

The AFP and its aviation partners are busily clearing airspace for Santa on Christmas Eve and reminding the public about drone safety rules ahead of his big Operation Present Drop.

While Santa’s sleigh is not a traditional aircraft, Airservices Australia has allocated Santa the call sign Sleigh Rider One and designed a clear path through Australian airspace that needs to be kept free of drones so he can deliver presents safely.

The AFP, in partnership with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and Airservices Australia, is urging drone users (and even Santa) to familiarise themselves with the drone safety rules, as airports prepare for the busy holiday period ahead.

All drones, regardless of how much they weigh, are prohibited from flying over or in the airspace of a controlled airport at any time of the year. This includes the departure or approach paths where traditional aircraft take off and land. 

Drones weighing more than 250g are also prohibited from being flown within 5.5km of a controlled airport without authorisation.

AFP Commander Geoff Turner said particularly during the festive period when there were an increased number of flights, any delays caused by drones flying in a restricted area could mean people might not reach their holiday destinations – and Santa might not deliver all his presents.

“We know drones remain a popular Christmas gift and the AFP in partnership with CASA and Airservices Australia, is encouraging people with drones to read the rules and fly safely these holidays,” Commander Turner said.

Commander Turner said the AFP monitored drone activity and the surrounding airspace through network of detection systems.

“These measures are in compliance with aviation regulations to ensure the protection of major infrastructure and to provide safety to the general public.”

CASA Manager Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) Operations, Scott Duffy said it was important users informed themselves on where they could and couldn’t operate their drone, if they needed to be licensed and the dangers of flying drones near airports.

“We’d like to encourage users to find out where they can safely fly by using one of the CASA-verified drone safety apps available now through the Know Your Drone website,” says Mr Duffy.

CASA-verified drone safety apps and web applications give location-based information with easy-to-use maps about where you can and can't fly your drone according to CASA’s drone safety rules.

“Drone operators are also encouraged to test their knowledge of the drone safety rules by visiting our Know Your Drone website and taking the quiz,” he said.

Airservices Australia’s Integrated Airspace Program Manager, Luke Gumley, said while drones make a great Christmas present, consumers should be familiar with the simple drone rules that keep everyone safe.

“The area around controlled airports and 120 meters above the ground are where traditional aircraft operate,” Mr Gumley said.

“All drone flyers, even those who fly recreationally, need to be aware of the drone rules to ensure they don’t inadvertently interrupt the operation of passenger or emergency aircraft, especially during the busy holiday season.”

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