Drones in a Strata Community

The popularity and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) have increased exponentially over the past decade.

Drones are progressively being used by body corporates and insurance firms to inspect the outside of tall buildings.

Drones could mean big savings for strata communities when checking on things like window safety and structural integrity, but their use has prompted “Peeping Tom” concerns from some strata residents.

Whether for commercial or recreational purposes it is important to consider how the use of drones can affect your strata community.

Commercial Use of Drones for Strata Properties

To a body corporate, drones can present an efficient and cost-effective solution for inspections and maintenance.

This technology paired with the right safety and privacy guidelines has the potential to monitor and maintain these high-density areas at a more efficient level than ever.

Commercial drone operation can drastically reduce or eliminate expenses on contractors and scaffolding when undertaking maintenance as well as provide surface area 3D modelling, thermal images and on-send data immediately to third parties such as insurance companies to speed up claim turnaround times.

Monitoring and repair are not the only drone applications being developed within the infrastructure industry. Start-ups are also testing drone technology to perform hazardous tasks at height, such as painting and window cleaning.

Rules for flying drones (recreational)

Under Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) laws unmanned aerial vehicles are not permitted to operate over a populous area or within 30m of other people.

Other CASA rules for operating drones include:

• You must only fly one drone at a time
• Don’t record or photograph people without their consent
• You must keep your drone within visual line-of-sight
• You must not fly your drone higher than 120 metres
• You must only fly during the day and you must not fly through cloud or fog
• you must not operate your drone in a way that creates a hazard to another aircraft, person or property.

Read the full CASA Rules for recreational drone operators for more information.

At a glance, it would seem that due to the nature of where the majority of strata properties are located, flying drones recreationally would not be permitted as in would be in breach of CASA laws (operating in a populous area or within 30m of other people).

Additionally, numerous councils have rules on the launch of drones from land that is under council control and require drone operators to obtain permits.

This ensures that operators:

• Are compliant with civil aviation requirements;
• Hold any insurances the council considers appropriate; and
• Can be traced and contacted if any incidents do occur

By-laws

Some bodies corporate have introduced by-laws that regulate the use of drones.

All three buildings at the Chevron Renaissance in Surfers Paradise for example, have backed an exclusion zone for the drones.

The body corporate by-law follows Civil Aviation Safety Authority laws and makes it simpler for the body corporate to crack down on improper drone use through issuing breach notices.

It is important to ensure the use of drones in your building comply with regulations and by-laws.

Privacy concerns

A major issue of the use of drones in a strata community surrounds privacy concerns and their potential misuse by “peeping toms.”

Incidents where drones have been used purely for the purpose of spying on others and invading their privacy have occurred.

Drone operators are required to follow privacy regulations around data storage, camera operation and limiting access to the information collected.

To allay privacy concerns from residents, where applicable, managers should take action and notify all owners and residents about the presence of a drones being used for maintenance and inspections, including details regarding the time of use, and for what period.

Owners who are unsure about the presence of a drone outside their building to contact their building manager (or body corporate manager) if they feel that their privacy is being compromised.

Author: Sam Aubrey

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