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Australia, the lucky country. Well not so much any more me thinks.
Our cobbers across the ditch have a better standard of living than us, mainly due to lower costs and higher wages. That's the way it's been for quite a while now and as a result, there is usually a steady stream of Kiwis heading West because, even if not literally, the promise is that the grass is greener.
Not so much at the moment though... as the country scorches its way through a record-breaking heat-wave.
Of course this week, we'll get a very minor version of that heat-wave and plenty of Kiwis will be grizzling all the way to the fridge (for another cold beer) but compared to the 40+ degree temps in Australia, we're getting it easy.
Come to think of it, I've only turned on the air-conditioning in the truck once so far this summer. No, the old 1994 Toyota Hilux doesn't have "climate control", it's old-school, with a big button that says A/C which you have to engage if you want some respite from the heat. But again I ask... what heat?
Maybe it's because I'm old,maybe it's because I've lost 16Kg, or maybe it's just that this summer has so far been rather mild -- but the A/C button has spent very little time in the "illuminated" position. Maybe this week things will change.
But enough about the weather, there's something more interesting happening in Oz right now.
Sorry, I'm talking drones again -- but not so much drones themselves -- more about how commercial lobbyists, politicians and bureaucrats all work together to subvert the democratic process.
Although existing drone regulations in Australia are still far from perfect, I have often raised them as being some of the most reasonable in the world. They have (with a few exceptions) presented a good balance of rights with responsibilities, ensuring that recreational users are not unduly constrained and allowing commercial operators to work without excessive bureaucratic overheads.
These regulations were built on the concept of ensuring safety and created by CASA, the Australian equivalent of our CAA. Their understanding of the risks posed by drones, balanced by an obvious need to integrate them into the existing airspace in a save and controlled manner produced this regulatory framework.
Unfortunately however, special interest groups (the "drone industry") and politicians have now become involved and are forcing CASA's hand to "toughen" regulations and introduce worthless things such as registration.
The justification for such ridiculous and onerous burdens on drone users are incidents such as the recent one at Gatwick Airport in the UK.
I shake with outrage every time I hear the media or politicians referring to "the drones that shut down Gatwick" as they call for greater regulation. Why?
Because there was not a single shred of actual evidence that there were any real drones involved in the Gatwick incident. No photos, no videos, no drones -- nothing. Just hearsay. Indeed, some of the so-called "sightings" turned out to be the lights on a crane some distance from the airport itself.
Yet, regardless of this total lack of substantiating evidence, politicians and the media continue to tell us that the airport was shut down by a drone or drones.
However, to ignore the facts (or should I say the lack of facts) suits the agendas of these groups -- and the commercial drone industry which wants greater restrictions on recreational users so as to ensure the skies remain clear for their own purposes.
The outcome, in Australia, is that CASA is now being pretty much directed to bring in a registration system that will see the operators of all drones weighing more than 250g having to be registered and the introduction of a $20 registration fee.
They're also looking at introducing a minimum age of 16 years for those wanting to operate drones and RC models (outside of "CASA approved" flying fields).
So politicians want to criminalise kids who simply want to fly a model aircraft or a drone?
What's more, CASA openly admits that these lame new proposals have been cooked up by a consultative group made up of "drone industry" experts.
Previous surveys have shown that 90-95% of all drone flying is recreational -- with just 5%-10% being performed commercially.
So why are the 5-10% being given the power to decide what the 90-95% can do?
Where is the representation for the majority?
As I said, this is a case of special interest groups (the "drone industry") and politicians subverting the good work done to date by CASA.
So now CASA is "consulting" with the public and asking for feedback on the proposed new regulatory changes. That is indeed a joke of monumental proportions.
According to those who have filled out the survey form, the questions are totally loaded to the extent that they're akin to asking "have you stopped beating your wife?"
CASA (like CAA in NZ) are required by law to consult on such changes but there is no legislation requiring them to listen to what the public say. It's called "going through the motions" and smells like it.
Sadly, I fear that we're about to see the same sort of thing enacted here in New Zealand, where our politicians are just as thick and there are just as many "experts" who seek to feather their own nests.
Rest assured that if NZALPA and Airways (two of the strongest proponents of drone registration) get their way, I may be publishing this column from a jail cell -- because I will not be registering, nor will I stop flying. It may be that I spend my final days as a martyr to the cause -- but then again, without principles we have nothing eh?
What do readers think?
Is it only a matter of time before money and stupidity over-ride commonsense here in New Zealand as well, when it comes to the issue of drone regulation?
It is important to remember that despite all the dire predictions of death and destruction, the death toll associated with the recreational use of multirotor drones remains at a big fat zero in the entire decade since these things became a thing. Yes, they are THAT dangerous!
Here's a video I made for our Aussie friends, alerting them to the changes and pointing them at the consultative survey being run right now.
Please read the comments on this video to get a feel for the way the RC and drone community feels about the proposed new regulations. You have to feel sorry for a country as unlucky as Australia right now eh?
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