Queensland researchers have made a global breakthrough developing on-board technology for small aircraft that warns them when other aricraft are nearby. Aircraft will help with Queensland floods, fires and disasters.
Queensland researchers have made a global breakthrough developing on-board technology for small aircraft that warns them when other aricraft are nearby. Aircraft will help with Queensland floods, fires and disasters. Contributed

Remote control drones are rattling lawmakers

REMOTE controlled flying machines are becoming the future of fire fighting, crime stopping and even crop dusting but their popularity is rattling lawmakers.

Drones available for less than $500 could be skirting long-established laws on privacy, even as authorities increasingly embrace the technology.

Real estate agents are giving themselves an edge over competitors by using the gizmos to give a unique view on a house for sale.

Larger scale commercial drones or "remotely piloted aircrafts" are being used to spray weeds, survey mine sites and even monitor bush fires.

They are forbidden from approaching an urban area unless consent is given by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Meanwhile, small drones controlled by phone or tablet - and fitted with high-definition video recorders - require no licence or certification.

The creeping popularity of the technology has forced the creation of a "roundtable discussion" on drones and privacy by a House of Representatives standing committee.

During its meeting in late February, Australian Privacy Foundation Chair Dr Roger Clarke said drones were not the problem, it was how they "exacerbate existing massive deficiencies in surveillance law in Australia".

"We need to separate out those issues and solve where the problems are," he said.

Ahead of the group's Brisbane meeting, committee chair and Dawson MP George Christensen said he was "very conscious" about how drones fit within privacy laws and "the potential for drones to affect privacy in new ways".

He said they were useful as "a cheap way to carry out work that is dangerous, dirty or repetitive".

The committee will hear from Queensland Police, Queensland Fire and Rescue Service and agriculture groups on how they use the aircrafts.

QPS is testing how drones can help in rescue operations, disasters or tackling crime.

Since December, QFRS has been experimenting with a "quad-copter", particularly for searches, building collapses or where fires risk igniting hazardous materials.

How these uses fit within national and state privacy laws is yet to be hammered out, particularly if drones are flying and filming in urban areas.

The committee will meet in Queensland's Parliament House tomorrow.


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