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Drone operator fined after posting flight videos on YouTube

An Australian man has been fined for breaking aviation safety regulations while flying his drone, but while he wasn't caught in the act, the man was busted after posting videos of the flights to YouTube.

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The DJI Phantom quadcopter-style drone.Image by Vicki Burton, CC BY-SA 2.0

An Australian man has been fined for breaking aviation regulations whilst flying his drone, after authorities discovered his flight footage posted on YouTube.

The news comes as Australians prepare for the Australia Day national holiday long weekend, when the country heads outdoors for barbecues and a day at the beach -- and to give the drone they got for Christmas a whirl around the park.

Australian regulations, set by the country's Civil Aviation Safety Authority, stipulate that recreational drone users may operate their Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (as CASA labels them) without a licence, but must obey rules for their operation.

These rules include requirements to operate the drone in daylight and in line-of-site; to remain at least 30 metres from buildings, vehicles and people; to stay more than 5.5 kilometres from all airports and lower than 120 metres; and to stay away from populous areas such as beaches and other people's backyards.

According to an infringement notice obtained by website EFTM, the Queensland man was fined AU$850 for breaching a number of these regulations. In addition, CASA advised him in the notice that the breaches were discovered thanks to YouTube videos he posted of the flights.

"The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) was alerted to a number of videos posted on YouTube showing a Phantom DJI model aircraft being operated in contravention...of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998," the infringement notice read.

"As a result of your actions a number of strict liability regulatory requirements were breached. While each individual breach was not major in itself, the number of breaches has caused me concern."

The man only received a single fine for the breaches, but the infringement notice warned that continued operation of his drone in contravention of regulations would be taken as a "wilful disregard for aviation safety" and would result in further action from CASA.

CASA acknowledged that the man had accepted his contravention of flight regulations and had removed the videos from YouTube. It also used the case as a warning for other drone operators, advising them to "abide by the basic safety principles" for flight and reminding users that it is illegal to fly drones for money in Australia if you're not a CASA-certified operator.