I have a remotely piloted aircraft (drone) and I want to fly it, what do I need to know?
Do I need approval from CASA to fly a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA)?
- For recreational or private use - no. If you want to fly your drone or model aircraft for fun in Australia, you can do so without our approval - providing you follow the simple safety rules.
- For commercial use (hire or reward) - yes, there are two weight class options:
- Under 2kg Commercial: Those operating in this 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.
- If you want to fly very small RPAs commercially under the excluded RPA category, there will be reduced regulatory requirements with limiting conditions and priviliges. You will not need an operator’s certificate which from 29 September 2016 will be called an RPA operator's certificate (ReOC), nor will you need a remote pilot licence (RePL).
- Above 2 kg Commercial: If you want to fly a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) commercially in Australia, outside of the excluded category (ie: greater than 2kg in weight), then you need to be licensed and/or certified by CASA.
- This authorisation comes in the form of a remote pilot licence (RePL) (your drone licence), allowing individuals to fly for operators, who need to hold a RPA operator's certificate (ReOC) (previously called Unmanned Operator Certificate or UOC).
- The RPA operator's certificate allows you to fly in most areas, including at night, up to 15m from people and within 3nm of non-towered aerodromes for example in accordance with your approved procedures. You can also apply for additional operational authorisations if you hold the RPA operator’s certificate (ReOC), such as:
- area approvals
How do I apply for a remote pilot licence (RePL) (your drone licence), what are the steps involved?
- This authorisation comes in the form of a remote pilot licence (RePL), allowing individuals to fly for operators, who need to hold a RPA operator's certificate (ReOC).
- There are two ways to gain your remote pilot licence (RePL) (your drone licence):
- If you have no prior aviation knowledge, you will need to complete a course with a RPAS training provider, such as Wicked Copters.
- If you do have prior aviation knowledge and have passed a private pilot licence theory course and exam, you can log five hours with a RPAS training provider, such as Wicked Copters, to gain your RePL.
- Please note that RePLs are not subject to CASA renewal, but operators will be expected to have documented currency requirements.
How do I apply for a ReOC, what are the steps involved?
Once you have gained your RePL, you may operate commercially with a ReOC holder, or apply for your own RPA operator’s certificate.
To gain a ReOC you must:
1.. complete Application Forms 101-02 and 101-04 (previously Form 041);
2.. complete and submit supporting documentation including your RPAS operations manual and RPAS operations procedures (Library);
3.. pay the estimated fee (approx $1200 to $1440 for a non-complex aerial work operations ReOC); and
4.. participate in an interview with CASA or an authorised industry delegate.
5.. a flight test may be required if your licence was obtained via the aviation theory route / manufacturer assessment, and not via an RPAS training organisation, such as Wicked Copters.
CASA Client Services Centre (Permissions Issue) or an authorised industry delegate will issue the certificate upon successful completion of the assessment process.
CASA currently authorises UAV Operator’s Certificates in the RPA categories of multi-rotor, fixed wing and helicopter types across four different weights: < 2 kg, <7 kg, <20 kg and <150 kg.
How long will it take to obtain a RPA operator's certificate (ReOC)?
Currently the lead time is approximately 40 to 80 working days. The estimate fee must be paid prior to the commencement of any regulatory services assessment.
How much will it cost to obtain a ReOC?
Currently (September 2016), the average estimate fee for an ReOC is $1,200 to $1400, but this cost will vary depending on the amount of time it takes to assess the application, the type of operations being applied for, the quality and complexity of your submission.
What UAV aircraft types does CASA authorise for ReOC holders?
CASA authorises UAVs in the following categories:
- Multi Rotor
- Fixed wing
What weight (maximum take-off weight, including payload and fuel) categories are available?
CASA has the following weight classes for civilian commercial operations:
- very small (<2kg)
- small (2-25kg) (where required with 7kg restriction)
- medium (25-150kg)
- large (>150kg)
RPA operator’s certificate structure
Is it possible to have an alternate chief controller and/or maintenance controller?
Yes, a UOC organisation can have an alternate chief controller and/or maintenance controller. The UOC holder is required to have a procedure in their operations manual which outlines how and when the alternate controller would be activated into that role. The alternate person is required to be assessed as suitable by CASA.
Can I allow other people to operate under my UOC or am I allowed to operate under another organisation’s UOC?
Yes. Any operations conducted under a UOC remain the non-delegable responsibility of the UOC holder. These activities are subject to compliance with all other applicable operating requirements under CASR Part 101. This is to ensure appropriate procedures to manage the arrangements are in place, provisions are documented in the operations manual and operations remain in accordance with any operating conditions imposed by CASA under the UOC. It is also important to consider the following:
- anyone operating under an organisation’s UOC must be inducted into the company as per their operations manual procedure
- all aircraft being used must match the authorised aircraft types (on the parent UOC).
Note: CASA regards a direct employee as being a person who is engaged under a contract of employment (whether written or oral) with the UOC holder. All other persons operating under the UOC will typically be considered by CASA to be contractors.
Medical Conditions and Age Limits
Do I need an aviation medical to obtain a Remote Pilot Licence (drone licence)?
No, CASA does not require a medical clearance.
Am I allowed to operate a drone (RPA) with colour blindness?
Yes, as no medical clearance is a requirement by CASA, a drone (RPA) can be operated by a person with a colour deficiency.
Note: A number of manufacturers use multi-coloured LED light codes to display the current status of the drone (RPA); therefore it is important that operators are familiar with the coloured LED lights.
What is the minimum age to fly drones commercially?
To hold a remote pilot licence (RePL), there is no minimum age. To hold the AROC, you must be at least 17 years old.
CASA approved remotely piloted aircraft system training providers
Is Wicked Copters a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) training provider?
Yes, Wicked Copters is the leading CASA approved RPAS Drone Training Provider (CASA.UOC.0152) and provides drone licence (Remote Pilot Licence) training across Australia, both in-class and online on a weekly basis for multi rotor, fixed wing and helicopter up to 25kg.
Remotely piloted aircraft advanced operations
What is an aeronautical radio operator certificate?
An Aeronautical Radio Operator Certificate (AROC) is awarded to anyone who successfully completes a CASA approved training syllabus at a flying school like Wicked Copters, and has been assessed at English Language Proficiency (ELP at GELP or AELP 6) with regards to the use of VHF air band radio (hand held or base station/aircraft radio). This certification will be helpful for maintaining a listening watch on published frequencies and is mandatory to operate in controlled airspace during operations.
Can I fly my UAV in first person view (FPV) i.e. beyond visual line of sight (VLOS)?
No. When the condition on your remote pilot licence states clear of cloud or day meteorological conditions, you must keep the drone (RPA) in sight at all times, unaided (except for prescription glasses or sunglasses) without the use binoculars, telescopes or zoom lenses.
Will I be able to fly at night or up to 15m of people for commercial purposes?
Yes. CASA provides an exemption, via the Chief Remote Pilot, to established operators that request a night exemption and that will allow operators to fly within 15 metres of people. Prior to granting this exemption, CASA will provide guidance to the applicant regarding the procedural content articulated in the ReOC operational library.
I want to use a UAV to film a sports game or sports training session - is this considered a commercial operation?
Yes. You will need to apply to CASA for a RPA operator's certificate (ReOC). CASA will require redundancy in your drone for flying over people or populous areas (ie: a hexacopter or octacopter, drop chute, dual batteries, redundant GPS and IMU, etc).
Can I fly my UAV over populous areas?
As a basic rule, no you can’t. You can apply to CASA for an exemption before you fly over a populous area. CASA will assess the risk mitigations specified in the application on a case-by-case basis. CASA will require redundancy in your drone for flying over people or populous areas (ie: a hexacopter or octacopter, drop chute, dual batteries, redundant GPS and IMU, etc).
What is a risk assessment?
A risk assessment is an assessment tool in which risk is identified and mitigated in regards to likelihood and consequence of something going wrong. This should be applied prior to all operations to mitigate identified risk to aircraft, people or property to as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP).
Do I need to supply a risk assessment in my operations manual?
Yes. CASA must be satisfied that all identified risk has been mitigated to ALARP and it is safe to undertake the activity.
What is a risk matrix?
A risk matrix identifies the relationship between likelihood and consequence, as well as possible control measures to lower the risk. A risk program is something that should evolve as your business grows. Each time you identify a different risk, add it to your risk register so you have a living document so that when the time comes you need to apply for a permission, area approval or exemption you already have a detailed document for your business.
Can I fly my drone (RPA) indoors and take photographs?
While there is nothing in the regulation (Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 (CASR) 101A, C and F) to stop you from flying indoors, consider the following:
- you must not operate an unmanned aircraft in a way that creates a hazard to another aircraft, another person, or property
- you must not fly closer than 30 metres of people
- you must not fly over any populous area
- the building must contain the drone (RPA) so as not to be able to fly out of the building into the airspace above it (i.e. if the building is located within three nautical miles of an aerodrome, helicopter landing site or authorised landing area or controlled airspace).
Does an organisation conducting research and development need a ReOC?
Yes, there is a requirement for organisations undertaking research and development to have a UAV operator certificate (ReOC). A ReOC is required for any operation for hire or reward and, as such, the reward of the research falls into that category. Australian universities wishing to operate a drone (RPA) for research and development purposes are required to hold a CASA-issued ReOC.
Do I need an ReOC if I intend to demonstrate a drone (RPA) to prospective clients?
Yes, you need to have a RPA operator's certificate (ReOC).
How high can I fly?
The maximum operating height is 400 feet above ground level (AGL) unless permission has been granted by CASA to fly above this height.
Variation to unmanned aerial vehicle operation certificate - existing holders
What do I need to do to add a new drone (RPA) to my existing operator certificate?
The chief controller may be required to undertake type training and a flight assessment with CASA if it is not in the same weight/type category.
Do I need to update my operations manual when adding a new drone (RPA) to my ReOC?
Yes, you will also need to supply an updated operations manual and operations library on the new drone (RPA) type being added.
Does my Remote Pilot Licence (drone licence) need to be updated if I want to add another aircraft?
Yes, if it is a different type or weight class to the licence you hold.
- Complete the relevant Type Training and 5 hours of logged flight time.
- Complete CASA Form 1087 and tick variation on the front page and then only complete the sections that relate to adding a new drone (RPA) and submit this to CASA Licensing and Registration Centre (CLARC).
- Include the maximum take-off weight, including your camera/gimbal etc., to assist staff in issuing the licence.
- A small fee applies.
What is the process to add an aircraft to my RPA Operator's Certificate (ReOC) if it is already within the existing approved class?
As per the ReOC conditions, any changes must be accepted by CASA in writing.
- The aircraft and its details must be included in the operations manual and operations library.
- Submit them to CASA for acceptance.
Complex Aerial Work
What do I need to consider when applying for permission for aerial chemical application?
CASA can only issue you with the RPAS operational approval (via a ReOC) for the purposes of conducting aerial chemical application. CASA does not authorise the dispensing of chemicals from an RPA. You are required to contact your local Department of Primary Industries (state government) to ascertain their requirements for dispensing of chemicals.
Can I inspect powerlines?
You must first have approval/authorisation from the energy provider who owns/administers that asset prior to CASA assessing and authorising that aerial work function. In most cases you must have an ReOC before an energy provider will issue an approval to inspect their asset.
Foreign companies wanting to fly a remotely piloted aircraft system in Australian airspace
I have authorisation to operate my aircraft overseas, how do I obtain approval to operate for commercial purposes in Australia?
If there is some form of reward received or if anyone will profit in some way from the flight. i.e hire or reward, then you will need to obtain Australian certification from CASA. Please email the RPAS office.
I am a foreign operator wanting to conduct flying testing activities, what are the steps to obtain approval?
If you determine that the trial flights are not being conducted for hire or reward then you need to comply with the following requirement:
- obtain an aviation reference number (ARN) in the name of your registered company - Form 1170 or use CASA Form 1162 if applying for an ARN for an individual
- once the ARN is issued, your organisation needs to make an application to CASA for an area approval, email email@example.com to obtain a copy of the template
- establish a safety case to support your submission. You will need to provide CASA with a comprehensive risk assessment as part of the submission
- provide the license details of any foreign registered remote controller/pilot proposed to fly during the trial
- apply to CASA for such pilots to undergo a flight proficiency test prior to the trial commencing
- all drone (RPA) pilots are to be familiar with Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR) Part 101 as applicable
- all operations must be conducted in accordance with CASR Part 101 as applicable. CASA will estimate the fee for the flight test which must be paid prior to conducting any flights in Australia.
Important: Anytime you are flying your aircraft you need to ensure you mitigate all identifiable risks and do not fly where you could injure a person.
Do I need insurance to operate my RPA (drone)?
The current Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR 1998) relating to the operation of a drone in Australia (Part 101) do not require insurance coverage. CASA strongly recommends organisations consider third party personal and property insurance/or drone insurance as part of their business, however, there is no regulatory requirement from CASA.