Customs seizes 80k worth of Drones


Unlike the Civil Aviation definition of UAV v Model Aircraft being Commercial v Hobby use, the Defence and Strategic Goods list (  defines a UAV as any unmanned aircraft that has an autopilot OR can fly beyond line of sight. 

Feeling very nervous after reading the article above because you could get into alot of trouble traveling with your Arducopter or Arduplane.

One might think "surely my quad isn't covered under export control" but whilst the CyberQuad looks like quite an impressive aircraft, under the hood, it's an off the shelf flight controller that you can buy from a hobby shop.

Terrorist obviously don't have the brains to buy drone parts from China and assemble it themselves.

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  • Andrew, Not faith or trust, just simple experience.  On the import/export side, most of my permits and exemptions related to the import of materials that was otherwise have been blocked.  I have also held permits, licenses and exemptions from several state and federal regulators.  My posts were an attempt to bring some balance to a thread that seems to assume that it isn't easy to export safely and legally. 

    My experience is that most regulators are reasonable and not at all scary.  They generally aim to enforce the intent of legislation rather than the letter of the law and are quick to issue new or amended permits when you exceed your allowed limits or want to expand their scope.

  • Your trust and faith in state bureaucracy is heartwarming, Robert.

    Notwithstanding the horse was seen to have bolted, after wandering about the wilds of the non-Western world, it has subsequently died peacefully of old-age.

  • For anyone wanting to actually export UAVs, it is worthwhile checking out both the customs and defence websites for information and to download permit or license applications.  Easier than just hoping your products are not seized by customs...

  • The important aspect that seems to be overlooked in many of the comments here is that fact that the export restrictions can be avoid by obtaining a permit or license to export the specific product.  Mentioned on page 5 of 361 in the legislation linked to in the blog post, not buried in that document, and copied below.   In some cases this does end up being for individual sales but that is not typical. 

    "Goods included in the list may not be exported from Australia unless a licence or permission has been granted by the Minister or an authorised person and that licence or permission is produced to a Collector of Customs before exportation: regulation 13E of the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958."

    It is no different to driving a car on a public road being illegal without the appropriate license.  Or, flying a UAV for commercial purposes being illegal without the required certifications.

    Dealing with import/export legislation is just a part of doing business.

  • it's been a few years since I've had to deal with export restrictions, but as I recall, as an individual leaving the country on holidays you should not have "export restrictions" placed on carrying your personal UAV across the border.  I imagine that their 'employee' was travelling on business and that gained the extra attention. 

    I also noticed that they did not mention the destination country either, it could easily be that the UAV or part thereof appeared on a restricted materials list that were not allowed to be sold into the destination country.  again, as I recall there was a list of parts that (in a previous company) we were not allowed to sell into some countries, however we could sell pretty much anything into places like the US and UK (for example)...

    we're kinda jumping to conclusions by worrying about this affecting us personally.  I'd still recommend a call to customs before travelling with your personal UAV just to be sure... 

  • classic, even a phantom can fly beyond visual range

  • Andrew - You are absolutely right. Going by the listed definitions, even selling your old iPhone or Nintendo Wii controller on eBay to the wrong buyer could (potentially) land you in hot water.
  • It's worth noting that export restrictions often include the export of software and know-how.  I'm not sure how the Australian rules are worded, but even downloading, uploading, or transmitting data related to restricted items can be illegal.  That might mean that anyone posting ideas related to UAV control systems, algorithms, etc to DIYD could be breaching export restrictions... 

  • T3

    It's a shame that a business would make these kinds of mistakes but it's a sham that these devices are considered military weapons.

  • @ Naish - just put the GPS module in the Mrs' bag ;)

    @Ben - good point and very interesting, I have heard of issues with batteries at airport security and it really just seems to come down to the guard on duty at the time you pass through - and also how you respond to their questions. I do remember a good blog post on here a few months ago, mainly tailored towards travelling domestically within the US, however there were some good pointers in there like having covers on your battery terminals and carrying a copy of the rules just in case you need them!

    This whole export restriction seems a bit inconsistent, I have read that one way to navigate it was to "lease" and not "sell" your UAV to foreigners - obviously I'm sure that would still require some form of approval from the relevant govt departments.

    @Hai - sure was great getting over to Perth last year and as I keep track on CASA's list of operators, it seems like more and more are popping up in Perth every week! As the industry builds, surely it would be a reasonable assumption that more and more products will be exported - have Coptercam sold any of your UAV's offshore? I have met some of your team here in Sydney and I would love to get involved wherever that may be ;) (forgive the shameless self plug!)

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