Airspace protection


Under the provisions of the Airports Act 1996 and the Airports (Protection of Airspace) Regulations 1996, the airspace around specific airports may be declared as Prescribed Airspace to protect it from physical and non-physical intrusions for the safe arrival and departure of aircraft. Melbourne Airport’s airspace has been declared as Prescribed Airspace by DITRD&LG.

Prescribed Airspace is the airspace above any part of either an Obstacle Limitation Surface (OLS) or a Procedures for Air Navigational Services – Aircraft Operations (PANS-OPS) surface.

Obstacle Limitation Surface (OLS)

This surface is usually the lowest of the two surfaces that make up Prescribed Airspace, and is designed to provide protection for visual flying, or VFR (when the pilot is flying by sight).

Procedures for Air Navigational Services – Aircraft Operations (PANS-OPS)

This surface is usually higher than the OLS and is designed to provide protection for instrument flying, or IFR (when the pilot is flying by instruments). The PANS-OPS may also protect airspace around the network of navigational aids that are critical for instrument flying.

Under section 182 of the Airports Act 1996, activities that result in intrusions into an airport's Prescribed Airspace are called “controlled activities”. Controlled activities cannot be carried out without approval.

Local councils with boundaries that fall within Melbourne Airport's Protected Airspace are required under the Airports Act 1996 and the Airports (Protection of Airspace) Regulations 1996 to review all building and development applications they received for any infringements of prescribed airspace. If an infringement is likely to occur, Regulation 8 provides that the local council must refer the application to the airport operator.

The regulations provide for Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (DOIRD) or the airport operator to approve applications to carry out controlled activities, and to impose conditions on approval.


Australia's recreational drone safety rules are designed to protect other people in the air and on the ground. CASA is authorised to investigate and issue fines for breaches of Civil aviation safety regulations 1998 Part 101.

While most nations prohibit drones from flying near airports, the millions of small consumer devices that have been purchased around the world can't be tracked on radar, making it difficult for authorities to enforce the rules. In additional, many users don't know the rules or don't follow them. 

Rules which are relevant to operating your drone in an area close to Melbourne Airport are highlighted below:

  • You must not fly your drone higher than 120 metres (400ft) above the ground
  • If your drone weighs more than 100g, you must keep at least 5.5km away from controlled aerodromes. Flying within 5.5km of a non-controlled aerodrome or helicopter landing site (HLS) is possible, but only if no manned aircraft are operating to or from the aerodrome. If you become aware of the manned aircraft operating to or from the aerodrome/HLS, you must manoeuvre away from the aircraft and land as soon as safely possible
  • Remember, you must not operate your drone in a way that creates a hazard to another aircraft, person or property