Safety first: analysing the problematisation of drones

Anna Zenz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The rise of commercial drone operations in Australia has led to increasing regulatory attention on this emerging aviation sector. For two decades, the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority has been an early mover in regulating the safety of drone operations while enabling the growth of the industry. Yet, the more recent influx of commercial drones across different sectors is putting the current legal framework and its ability to mediate conflicting interests to the test. Utilising Carol Bacchi’s ‘What’s the problem represented to be?’ framework for policy analysis, this article examines the origins, limitations, and effects of Australia’s drone laws. The article identifies that drones are framed chiefly as a safety risk, albeit an inherently manageable one, and details the regulatory consequences of this narrow conception. Crucially, it demonstrates how the centrality of the notion of safety closes off a more holistic assessment of risks and harms, sidelining equally critical concerns about the impact of rising numbers of drones on the sky as a public commons and natural habitat. Overall, the article reinforces the significance of how regulations delineate the scope of the problems they address, with profound implications for the analysis of regulation and policy beyond the remit of drones.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-334
Number of pages25
JournalGriffith Law Review
Volume32
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2024

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