In Australia, A Rare Exemption for Drone Filming at a Major Sporting Event

Beverly Hills Aerials, a cutting edge global drone firm, recently obtained a prized exemption from CASA, Australia’s civil aviation authority, to fly over and film a live golf tournament – the LIV Golf Adelaide held at the Grange Country Club.  It was a remarkable achievement in a country that openly promotes drone flying in a wide range of niches but still subjects all of its commercial drone flights to rigorous regulatory controls, especially if there’s a potential safety risk.

Normally, drones in Australia are banned from flying in populous areas and are prohibited from flying closer than 30 meters to any human gathering.  But the company, which applied for its exemption well over a year ago, was able to convince CASA that with additional safety precautions – including the installation of remotely-triggered parachutes on its four aircraft – its drone flights at the tournament would be 100% safe for the players and the crowd below.

Some 100,000 spectators attended the live golf event and Beverly Hills Aerials was on hand to provide unusually in-depth live footage of tournament action as it unfolded, with overhead shots and close-ups shots of players and onlookers from rarely seen camera angles.  The company’s drones also amplified LIV’s own drone-based “tracer” shots that track the paths of tee and iron shots and putts to give viewers a better live assessment of the action.

“With this particular very important client, it was critical we not only obtained a good approval, but rather an exceptional approval that allowed us to do things to be able to showcase their [own] technology,” Chief Drone Pilot Michael Izquierdo says. “LIV golf is focused on cutting edge tech and we are doing a lot of things that have never been done before.”

Izquierdo adds that CASA’s requirements, while onerous, are absolutely necessary for ensuring human safety, especially during major sporting events but also for drone flights in more populated areas.

“I hold the most advanced drone pilot licenses and have executed multiple projects in more countries than anyone I have ever met or heard of — USA, Canada, UK, EU, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia to name a few,” he says.  “And I can say, hands down, Australia has the toughest requirements and I wish more countries followed suit.”

Obtaining an Australian drone pilot license requires a week of classes and eight hours of monitored flying, plus numerous written and practical flying exams.  The course costs a hefty $8,000 and final certification still depends upon an in-depth three-hour interview with a CASA inspector.  It’s a grueling obstacle course, and that’s all before a company and its pilots apply for exemptions – and spend thousands more – to actually fly their aircraft.  Izquierdo says the opportunity to establish a drone filming precedent at a major sports event in Australia made the cost and the wait worthwhile.

Beverly Hills Aerials is no newcomer to drone sports filming.  The nine-year old company – headquartered in Los Angeles, hence its name – has filmed the highest profile events in the USA, Canada, UK, EU, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico, Thailand, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Australia. Other recent live venues include multiple Super Bowls, Indy 500’s, PGA events, Daytona 500’s, World Series and Kentucky Derbys.

The company has filmed all of these events without a single safety incident.

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