Joseph Wheeler MRAeS is the Principal of aviation law firm IALPG, through which he consults as Special Counsel (Aviation) for Maurice Blackburn Lawyers where he acts on behalf of those injured or who have lost loved ones in air disasters and accidents, and serves as Aviation Legal Counsel for the Australian Federation of Air PIlots. Joseph is an elected Member of the Royal Aeronautical Society, a member of the Legal Committee of the International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) in Montreal, and is the national Aviation Spokesperson of the Australian Lawyers Alliance. His practice focuses on advice and representation for passengers, pilots, remote pilots.
The Civil Aviation Legislation Amendment (Part 101) Regulation 2016 (CALA) which commenced on 29 September 2016 in Australia opens up commercial operations of under 2kg drones with no certification or training requirements other than adherence to standard operating conditions. It presents a raft of safety related issues in the face of rising complaints by Australian pilots and air traffic controllers of such aircraft illegally penetrating controlled airspace. Some of the issues include rolling back a requirement for training, no effective registration scheme, and failure to consider mandating technological mechanisms which would ensure the safety of such craft over people or near prohibited areas. The laws send a misleading message of freedom of the skies for those unencumbered by a reason to gain appropriate aeronautical knowledge for their operations. Australia’s leading commercial drone organisation (ACUO) has staunchly lobbied against the changes through IALPG which, in a world first, has initiated a vote to be put in the Federal Senate of Australia’s Parliament to veto the problematic legislative amendment. It would be the first time such drone legislation has been held back by the representatives of the people when promulgated by the national air safety regulator, and the process to get to that point involved both policy and legal considerations relevant to all ICAO states seeking to update and rationalise new safety regulations for the use of recreational and commercial drones.