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What you need to know - flying drones commercially under 2kg in Australia

Josh Spires | 15 September, 2016 | News

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Amendments to Part 101 commence on 29 September 2016. CASA will be reducing the entry requirements for people wanting to fly a very small (under 2kg) remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) commercially.

  • From 29 September 2016, the new category of excluded RPA will come into effect. If you want to fly very small RPAs commercially under the excluded RPA category, there will be reduced regulatory requirements. You will not need an operator’s certificate which from 29 September 2016 will be called an RPA operator’s certificate (ReOC), or a remote pilot licence (RePL).

Those operating in the excluded RPA category will have to notify CASA at least five business days before their first commercial flight and agree to operate by the standard operating conditions and the guidance in advisory circular (AC) 101-10 (available from mid-September 2016).

What you need to do

Notify CASA five business days before flying 

  • You can notify CASA via the online notification form, available from 21 September 2016.
  • To notify CASA, you will need an aviation reference number (ARN).
    • If you do not already have an ARN, you will need to apply for an ARN.
    • Please note the ARN application can take up to five working days.
  • Your notification is only valid for 24 months, so you will need to re-notify CASA every two years.

Operate within the standard operation conditions

  • ou must not operate your RPA in a way that creates a hazard to another aircraft, another person or property.
  • You must only fly during the day and keep your RPA within visual line-of sight.
    • This means being able to see the aircraft with your own eyes (rather than through first-person-view (FPV)) at all times.
  • You must not fly your RPA higher than 120 metres (400ft) AGL.
  • You must keep your RPA at least 30 metres away from other people.
  • You must keep your RPA at least 5.5km away from controlled aerodromes.
  • You must not fly your RPA over any area where, in the event of a loss of control or failure, you create an unreasonable hazard to the safety of people and property on the ground.
  • You must not fly your RPA over or near an area affecting public safety or where emergency operations are underway (without prior approval).
    • This could include situations such as a car crash, police operations, a fire and associated firefighting efforts, and search and rescue.
  • You can only fly one RPA at a time.

*Please note: CASA will not issue any further exemptions to excluded RPA operators. You will need a ReOC and a RePL if you want to operate outside the above conditions.

The above operating conditions are a broad reflection of Civil Aviation Safety Regulations Part 101 and do not encompass all the regulations you must follow. It is your responsibility to abide by all of the regulations detailed in Part 101. Failure to do so could result in enforcement action taken against you, including large fines and possible jail time.

The advantages of an RPA Operator's Certificate (ReOC)

While we have made it easier for commercial operators to fly a very small RPA from 29 September 2016, there are many advantages to gaining your ReOC:

  • Not having a ReOC means for commercial operations you’re limited to flying a very small RPA, if you want to fly anything heavier, above two kilograms, you’ll need a ReOC.
  • Not having a ReOC means you are restricted to operating under the standing operating instructions, greatly limiting where and how you can fly.
  • Not having a ReOC means you will unlikely get insurance, leaving you solely liable for any incident or accident arising from flying your RPA. Clients/employers are also less likely to hire you if you’re uninsured.

ReOC holders will also be given significant additional privileges under the Part 101 amendment, including:

  • authorisation allowing operation of an RPA over 2kg
  • permission to operate closer than 30 metres, but no less than 15 metres, from a person
  • nighttime flying (with night rating)
  • the ability to apply for exemptions to the regulations e.g., beyond-visual-line-of-sight
  • the ability to apply for a range of different additional approvals. However, be aware there are also state licensing requirements for contractors applying agricultural chemicals
  • operation in controlled areas subject to new guidance.

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