Laws aimed at preventing remotely piloted aircraft (RPA/drone) smuggling contraband like drugs, weapons and mobile phones into prisons, residential facilities (where serious sex offenders are supervised) and youth justice facilities commenced on 1 February 2018.
It is now an offence to fly an RPA at or near a Victorian prison, residential facility or youth justice facility.
There are existing Commonwealth laws in place around the flying of drones and helicopters.
- From 1 February 2018, it became be an offence to possess or operate an RPA/drone within 120 metres (400 feet) above or around the boundary of a Victorian correctional facility or a youth justice facility.
- The laws do not punish accidental or unintentional behaviour, and apply only to conduct that intentionally or recklessly threatens the good order or security of a facility.
- A person recklessly operates an RPA if they are aware that their aircraft is probably within the boundary imposed under the ban.
What is a remotely piloted aircraft or drone?
An RPA or drone is an aircraft of any shape or size that flies without an on-board pilot or passengers. It is commonly referred to as a ‘drone’ and may be flown by remote control.
How did the laws change?
From 1 February 2018, it became an offence to possess or operate an RPA within 120 metres (400 feet) above or around the boundary of a Victorian correctional facility (including prisons and supervised residential facilities such as the Judy Lazarus Transition Centre and Corella Place) or a youth justice facility.
The laws will not punish accidental or unintentional behaviour, and apply only to conduct that intentionally or recklessly threatens the good order or security of a facility.
A person recklessly operates an RPA if they are aware that that operation would be likely to be within the boundary imposed under the ban.
Why did the laws change?
RPA pose a security risk to correctional and youth justice facilities in a number of ways, including being used as a surveillance tool or to smuggle contraband like drugs, weapons and mobile phones.
Can I be prosecuted for an offence if I accidentally or unknowingly fly or possess an RPA within an exclusion zone?
The new offence is targeted towards RPA posing a threat to the security of correctional and youth justice facilities.
The offence applies if you intentionally or recklessly fly an RPA over one of these facilities.
The offence does not apply to accidentally or unknowingly flying an RPA near a correctional or youth justice facility or where you have a reasonable excuse.
The offence only applies to possession of an RPA near a boundary if it threatens, or is likely to threaten, the good order or security of a correctional or youth justice facility.
For example – if you have just purchased an RPA and walk past the Melbourne Assessment Prison in the CBD on your way to public transport, you would not be prosecuted.
How do I know if I’m inside an exclusion zone?
Signage around correctional and youth justice facilities will remind you that RPA must not be flown within 120 metres of the facility.
What happens if I fly a drone into the exclusion zone?
If you fly into the exclusion zone, an officer of the correctional or youth justice facility (or a police officer in a metropolitan area) may order you to leave the area.
It is an offence to disobey such an order.
If the officer has a reasonable belief that your operation of the RPA was likely to threaten the good order or security of the facility, you may be searched and your RPA may be seized to determine if an offence has occurred.
If you intentionally or recklessly fly an RPA over one of these facilities, you may be apprehended until the police arrive.
Can I fly an RPA at more than 120 metres above a correctional or youth justice facility?
Commonwealth regulations restrict the use of drones for recreational use above a height of 120 metres in all airspace. Some exemptions may apply.
For more information on Commonwealth drone laws, visit the Australian Government Civil Aviation Safety Authority website
What is the penalty for the offence?
A maximum of two years imprisonment will apply.
This is the same penalty that currently applies to the offence of smuggling contraband into prisons.
Is anyone exempt from the ban?
Police and emergency services, such as ambulance and fire services, are exempt from the ban.
Department of Justice and Community Safety staff using an RPA in the course of their employment are also exempt from the ban.
The ban does not apply to RPA operating in accordance with Commonwealth law. For more information, visit the Australian Government Civil Aviation Safety Authority website
I need to use RPA as part of my business. How can I get permission to use an RPA near a correctional or youth justice facility?
In very limited circumstances it may be possible to seek an exemption from the ban for a limited period of time.
If you need to use an RPA near a prison, you may contact the General Manager of the prison to seek an exemption. Contact details for each Victorian prison can be found on the Corrections Victoria website
For residential facilities, contact Corrections Victoria on (03) 8684 6600.
For youth justice facilities, contact: (03) 9389 4200
How do the new laws impact helicopters?
The ban also applies to helicopters and you cannot fly a helicopter at or below 120 metres above a correctional or youth justice facility.
Commonwealth regulations already prohibit the low flying of helicopters over populous areas such as prisons. Exemptions are permitted under Commonwealth regulations for the low flying of helicopters in a number of situations such as aerial firefighting or for medical evacuation.
The Victorian ban does not apply if the helicopter is operating in accordance with Commonwealth laws.
What correctional facilities and youth justice facilities operate in Victoria?
Youth Justice facilities:
- Melbourne Youth Justice Centre (Parkville)
- Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre (Malmsbury)
- Barwon Prison (Lara)
- Beechworth Correctional Centre (Beechworth)
- Dame Phyllis Frost Centre (Ravenhall)
- Dhurringile Prison (Murchison)
- Fulham Correctional Centre (Fulham)
- Hopkins Correctional Centre (Ararat)
- Judy Lazarus Transition Centre (West Melbourne)
- Karreenga annexe (Lara)
- Langi Kal Kal Prison (Langi Kal Kal)
- Loddon Prison Precinct (Castlemaine)
- Marngoneet Correctional Centre (Lara)
- Middleton annexe (Castlemaine)
- Melbourne Assessment Prison (West Melbourne)
- Metropolitan Remand Centre (Ravenhall)
- Port Phillip Prison (Truganina)
- Ravenhall Correctional Centre (Ravenhall)
- Tarrengower Prison (Maldon)
- Corella Place (Ararat)
- Emu Creek Homestead Residential Facility (Langi Kal Kal)
Posters in A4 and A3 formats summarising the information above are available to download.