Australian DJI Drone Pilots Forced to Take Quiz or Face Being Grounded in National Crackdown

If you’re a drone operator in Australia, you should brush up on your safety regulations or face being automatically grounded from Wednesday.

As of February 14, pilots of DJI drones — the most popular brand in the country — will be required to pass a short “knowledge quiz” about safety in order to fly their machines.

The quiz is embedded in a mobile phone app which controls the drone, meaning every DJI pilot will be forced to take the three-minute test, even if they are an experienced operator.

There is no limit on the number of times a pilot can attempt the quiz.

Peter Gibson, corporate communication manager at the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), which has authorised the move, says DJI approached the agency to help design the nine-item test.

“The questions cover some of the essential drone safety requirements, things like how far you have to stay from other people, the maximum altitude you can take your drone to, how far you have to stay away from airports,” Mr Gibson said.

A professional airbrushed photograph of a black and red drone with four against a white background.

China-based DJI says it hopes the test will help educate operators on local flight rules, with the answers “easily found” on CASA’s website.

“The quiz was designed to give drone pilots up to four chances to skip, so that pilots who use their drones for emergency response or public safety applications, for example, won’t get hindered during use in emergency situations,” said Adam Welsh, DJI’s head of Asia Pacific Public Policy.

“We do not lock operators out of their drones. If they don’t pass the quiz, they just have to keep taking it until they get all the questions correct.”

DJI has already introduced similar tests in the United States and the United Kingdom, based on those countries’ aviation regulations.

Until now, Australian operators have not been required to pass any test, either by a drone manufacturer or regulator.

“There’s been no requirement to go through a testing procedure because there is no licence [required to fly a drone],” Mr Gibson said.

“Nevertheless, it is essential that everyone who flies a drone understands the rules and follows them.”

A professional airbrushed photograph of a white drone with four black propellers on a white background.

Pilot backlash expected

Joe Urli, president of the Association of Australian Certified UAV Operators (ACUO), says he expects some pilots will resent being forced to take the DJI test.

“I do anticipate some kind of resistance due to the fact that at the point of sale, the conditions under which they purchased the product didn’t require a quiz,” Mr Urli said.

“If [DJI] goes ahead and disables the product from operating due to non-compliance with a quiz, I think it will have some kind of knock-on effect.”

Mr Urli said he welcomed the introduction of the quiz, saying it was analogous to drivers being required to have knowledge of their motor vehicles and road rules.

However, he said DJI would need to regularly review and update the test to ensure it remained relevant.

“Rules and regulations and airspace notifications change, so I think people need to keep abreast of that and I think a simple quiz may not just cut the mustard in terms of civil aviation regulations and compliance,” he said.

For CASA, the test is an opportunity to reinforce safety regulations for the majority of Australian drone operators.

“I think by making people do this before they can fly their drone regularly, it really brings home those responsibilities,” Mr Gibson said.

Drone operators who breach CASA regulations may be fined more than $10,000, depending on the type of breach.

Can you beat the quiz? Test your drone knowledge

Before every flight, you should?

How many drones can you fly at a time?

How far away can you fly a drone?

What is the maximum flight altitude for a drone?

How close to a major airport (controlled aerodrome) can you fly a drone?

How close can the drone get to people?

What should you do if you become aware of a manned aircraft flying toward your drone?

To fly a drone commercially the Civil Aviation Safety Authority requires you to…?

Where can I get more information on drone rules and where I can fly?

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