Tensions boil over drone safety dispute

Senators are calling for a freeze on the sale of drones amid fears they could be used by terrorists. (AAP)

A coalition senator has declared he has "no confidence" in Australia's aviation regulator over a dispute on how drones should be regulated.

A coalition senator has declared he has "no confidence" in Australia's aviation regulator over perceived inaction on the dangers of drones.

Frustrations boiled over during a Senate hearing on Tuesday as bureaucrats revealed a safety review of drones announced by the federal government last October hadn't begun.

Coalition backbencher Barry O'Sullivan, who previously worked as an air crash investigator, has suggested the sale of drones be frozen until regulations are in place to ensure their safety.

He warns it's a matter of time before a drone crashes into a plane if nothing is done.

But his concerns were repeatedly downplayed by Civil Aviation Safety Authority acting boss Shane Carmody, who insists there's no evidence to suggest a risk of collision, or to suggest existing regulations are insufficient.

"You need evidence? You want a drone to strike an airplane before you take some measures here?" Senator O'Sullivan told the hearing.

"I find your defence of these matters almost offensive.

"I've got no confidence in your administration."

Labor's Glenn Sterle also lost his patience, declaring Mr Carmody's evidence a "load of crap".

"You're really starting to annoy me now Mr Carmody," he said.

The heated exchange ended with Senator O'Sullivan telling Mr Carmody he didn't want to hear from him anymore.

In a rare display of bipartisanship, coalition and Labor senators demanded answers from aviation safety officials as to why authorities were moving so slowly.

The hearing was told the review by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, announced in October, was still months away from finalising its terms of reference.

"We're eight months from the announcement and we don't have a terms of reference?" Senator O'Sullivan said.

"We've allowed 50,000 of these up into airspace while we're having a think about how they should operate.

"I'm trying to see if I'm the only one concerned about this."

Coalition backbencher Chris Back said recreational drones were being used by Islamic State with devastating effect.

"(It) causes us to be concerned somebody with ill intent could do that in front of an aircraft landing or taking off at one of our major airports."

Air traffic policy general manager Jim Wolfe insisted CASA was in a state of ongoing review on the matter, awaiting an international review on drone safety.

"It's not as if the topic is not under continuous review," he said.

Source AAP

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