Is autonomous flight legal?

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I've come to accept that most of what I want to do with my drone is illegal. Some of the restrictions make sense... others, not so much.

I'm interested in autonomous flying - via preprogrammed waypoints or even using a drone's follow-me capabilities. Most aerial surveying applications make use of autonomous flight. However, I suspect that if you're not in control of your drone (even if you could take control at any time) then you're not flying legally. Does anyone know if this is the case?

Are we breaking the law every time we press the RTH button? :) Given the array of restrictions we face, it seems odd to me that our regulators would be okay with drones flying themselves.

I'm in Australia. I haven't been able to sight any explicit mention of autonomous flying in CASA's regulations, or elsewhere for that matter.
 
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dirkclod

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Not up on your regulations but here as long as you were in VLOS
i don’t think it’s a issue nor hitting RTH. But hadn’t thought about
it till now it would seem follow me mode would be illegal unless
you had someone with you say if you were riding a bike or whatever watching it.
 
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I've come to accept that most of what I want to do with my drone is illegal. Some of the restrictions make sense... others, not so much.

I'm interested in autonomous flying - via preprogrammed waypoints or even using a drone's follow-me capabilities. Most aerial surveying applications make use of autonomous flight. However, I suspect that if you're not in control of your drone (even if you could take control at any time) then you're not flying legally. Does anyone know if this is the case?

Are we breaking the law every time we press the RTH button? :) Given the array of restrictions we face, it seems odd to me that our regulators would be okay with drones flying themselves.

I'm in Australia. I haven't been able to sight any explicit mention of autonomous flying in CASA's regulations, or elsewhere for that matter.
Waypoints aren't really autonomous flying as you are just telling where to go it is not deciding for itself where to go, but of course most people call that autonomous flying.
But if you are at the sticks ready to take over if things go bad then it is fine.
 

dirkclod

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Your fine as long as your in VLOS but am curios since he brought it up about using Follow me mode.
Thats about all the Skydo is used for . You can't be watching it as I see them do in videos on that forum riding trails on dirt bikes or ATV's.I know it's close to them but wonder what the FAA's take would be on it.
@BigAl07 what's your opinion on that .
 
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Your fine as long as your in VLOS but am curios since he brought it up about using Follow me mode.
Thats about all the Skydo is used for . You can't be watching it as I see them do in videos on that forum riding trails on dirt bikes or ATV's.I know it's close to them but wonder what the FAA's take would be on it.
@BigAl07 what's your opinion on that .
Does the law not indicate you can fly a drone from a moving vehicle as long as you are at the controls of the drone and someone else is driving the vehicle? That should clearly indicate that if I had the control of the drone while riding a bicycle, ATV, car, boat or anything else, I would be in contravention of the law.
 
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I'm definitely not up on Australian laws, but here in the U.S. autonomy is not illegal. As a matter of fact, that is where the most advances are being made.

Autonomous missions are fine as long as you either follow all other FAA rules and/or have waivers for them.

And autonomy also doesn't release the PIC from responsibility. They are 100% responsible for that entire flight. So they better be sure whoever programed the flight knew what they were doing. Because if they didn't program it right, it's not the programmer's fault.

It would amaze me if the CAA had a prohibition against autonomous flights. If nothing else because Australia is where Amazon did a lot of their testing since CAA rules were more relaxed than FAA rules.
 

dirkclod

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Does the law not indicate you can fly a drone from a moving vehicle as long as you are at the controls of the drone and someone else is driving the vehicle? That should clearly indicate that if I had the control of the drone while riding a bicycle, ATV, car, boat or anything else, I would be in contravention of the law.
Yes but say useing a Skydo it’s you and it. If your watching it your not watching where your going. You can’t do both ? Have a video of you running into a tree instead of the other way around ?
 
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I've come to accept that most of what I want to do with my drone is illegal. Some of the restrictions make sense... others, not so much.

I'm interested in autonomous flying - via preprogrammed waypoints or even using a drone's follow-me capabilities. Most aerial surveying applications make use of autonomous flight. However, I suspect that if you're not in control of your drone (even if you could take control at any time) then you're not flying legally. Does anyone know if this is the case?

Are we breaking the law every time we press the RTH button? :) Given the array of restrictions we face, it seems odd to me that our regulators would be okay with drones flying themselves.

I'm in Australia. I haven't been able to sight any explicit mention of autonomous flying in CASA's regulations, or elsewhere for that matter.
So long as you remain within visual line of sight and able to take back control of the drone at any point, then it's OK. The 'pilot-in-command' or 'remote pilot' should always be monitoring the drone and controller when the aircraft is flying 'autonomously'. In the UK at least.
 
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Does the law not indicate you can fly a drone from a moving vehicle as long as you are at the controls of the drone and someone else is driving the vehicle? That should clearly indicate that if I had the control of the drone while riding a bicycle, ATV, car, boat or anything else, I would be in contravention of the law.
I thought by regulations your are allowed to fly from a vehicle in a sparsely populated area. As long as you arent breaking any other rules and keep it in vlos. Id say your using the drone for what its made for. But i also got told to ground my drone the other day for no reason by a few local pd cause they thought they knew the laws. Had to educate them. And they got their part 107 officer on the line and he told them what civil twilight was..
 
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In a time before Drones there was an aspect of autonomous
flight called Free Flight. You let your model fly in a circle until
the fuel ran out. I'm pretty sure no one died due to those
uncontrolled flights. Ahhhh the good old days.

Jerry
 
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Interesting debate. Technically, waypoint, follow me, and POI modes are all autonomous flight modes, meaning you are not actually actively flying the aircraft. RTH is no different. My interpretation of the laws in any country tells me that if you have the remote in hand, and are solely focused on flying the aircraft (meaning not controlling any other type of vehicle), and you are actually maintaining visual contact with the aircraft, then you are legal whether you are actively using the sticks or not.
 
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I believe agricultural spraying by drones have the option of autonomous operations.
 
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Agricultural drones are still subject to VLOS rules the same as any other small drone (under 25 Kg is classed as small).The only way to fly out of your direct line of sight is to have aviation qualifications such as night navigation and fly under BVLOS rules. Companies that fly rescue drones and agricultural drones will have a suitably qualified aircraft pilot to fly these BVLOS missions.
 
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I've come to accept that most of what I want to do with my drone is illegal. Some of the restrictions make sense... others, not so much.

I'm interested in autonomous flying - via preprogrammed waypoints or even using a drone's follow-me capabilities. Most aerial surveying applications make use of autonomous flight. However, I suspect that if you're not in control of your drone (even if you could take control at any time) then you're not flying legally. Does anyone know if this is the case?

Are we breaking the law every time we press the RTH button? :) Given the array of restrictions we face, it seems odd to me that our regulators would be okay with drones flying themselves.

I'm in Australia. I haven't been able to sight any explicit mention of autonomous flying in CASA's regulations, or elsewhere for that matter.
I have no idea what the regulations for UAS flight in Australia are. In light of that statement, autonomous flight in the US is completely allowed as long as you maintain line of sight to the aircraft, fly below 400 feet AGL, do not fly over people or moving vehicles and a few other limiters covered in Part 107. I rarely fly free-hand. 95% of my flights are for mapping purposes and the flight controller just does a more efficient job of managing the flight controls than the human hand.
I would be seriously surprised if CASA regulations deviate from 107 regs on this.
 
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From CASA
Seems it's OK as long as you can get control of it.
Autonomous aircraft An unmanned aircraft that does not allow pilot intervention during all stages of the flight of the aircraft
Autonomous operation An operation of an unmanned aircraft that does not allow pilot intervention during all stages of the flight of the aircraft
 

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