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RPAS in Australian skies conference
RPAS in Australian skies conference, Canberra – 13 March 2018
Speech by Luke Gumley, Branch Manager Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems
Good morning. Greg/Reece, thank you for your kind introduction. Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which this conference is held and pay my respect to Elders both past and present.
I thank the Australia Association for Unmanned Systems for the opportunity to speak at the RPAS in Australian Skies 2018 conference and I’m proud that CASA is a sponsor.
CASA has a stand here at the conference - as a trade exhibitor. I encourage you to visit the stand and chat with CASA staff.
I am looking forward to two productive and informative days here at the National Convention Centre. Given the number of attendees I see in front of me, RPAS is certainly of great interest to many people. I applaud the work of AAUS in championing a united RPAS community voice and promoting safe RPAS operations here in Australia.
I read with interest the many themes for this year’s conference. They include the integration of RPA into Australian airspace and UTM, regulatory development, training, and beyond visual line of sight just to name a few. Each of the themes you’ll discuss over the next two days are important to CASA – they allow us to better understand the contemporary environment so we can be an effective regulator of the rapidly growing RPAS sector.
But first, before I get to the challenges, I’d like to talk a bit about CASA and some of our strategic priorities.
CASA’s key role is the safety regulation of civil air operations in Australian territory and the operation of Australian aircraft overseas. We are responsible for ensuring that Australian administered airspace is used safely and to encourage the aviation community to achieve high levels of safety. Aviation safety is a responsibility we assume on behalf of the Australian people, through their elected representatives in Parliament – a job all CASA officers take very seriously.
CASA’s focus as a regulator is on delivering a fair, firm and balanced aviation safety regulation system and promoting a positive and collaborative safety culture throughout the aviation community. To achieve this, we often need to balance competing considerations, with safety considerations being given the highest priority. CASA’s Regulatory Philosophy sets out the principles that underpin the way CASA performs its functions, exercises its powers, and engages with the aviation community.
Above all, we seek to balance our primary focus on the safety of the travelling public, with due consideration of the impact of its safety regulation on industry.
In addition to CASA’s priorities in the RPAS sector, which I will discuss in a moment, CASA’s regulatory reform program remains a focus. The reform program began many years ago, and has been an ongoing process to either finalise new regulations or to review and update them, to make improvements to aviation safety as technology changes, or to reflect better safety practices. CASA has sought to align the regulations as closely as possible with the International Civil Aviation Organization standards and recommended practices, and to harmonise, where appropriate, with the standards of other leading aviation countries.
The Civil Aviation Safety Regulations comprises of 55 Parts, of which 45 have been made – leaving 10 to go. However, most of the last ten are substantial, involving the flying operations suite, along with some sport and recreational aviation Parts. The operations suite has been through many drafting iterations and consultation over the years, but we are doing our utmost to finalise drafting this year. We can then move on to transition, noting that most of the Parts will include some transition period to allow enough time for people and organisations to be prepared to meet the new regulations.
Our recent audit by ICAO, through the Coordinated Validation Mission last year, saw us receive a result in the high 90s, putting Australia in the top 10 in the world for effective implementation of ICAO standards and recommended practices.
One recent new initiative is how we manage our consultation, with the establishment of the Aviation Safety Advisory Panel in July 2017. The new panel is the primary advisory body which CASA can direct its industry engagement through, when seeking input on current and future regulatory and policy approaches. It also serves as an advisory panel to the Director of Aviation Safety, by providing informed, objective and high-level advice from the aviation community on current, emerging or potential issues that may have aviation safety implications.
Transforming service delivery is also a key focus area for CASA. Here, we are not only talking about reducing processing times for regulatory services, but making the process for you, as CASA’s clients, smoother, and providing ready access to your information through smart digital technology. CASA is focused on reducing physical paperwork and manual intervention, reducing the amount of double-up and double-handling, and delivering an improved service journey to you. This will not be years in the making. Delivery of services for the RPAS community is the very first cab of the rank in our Service Delivery Transformation program.
Digital transformation is something near and dear to my heart. Within the RPAS Branch I manage, we too are on journey to improve our service delivery through smarter systems integration, resulting in a reduction to application processing times and greater standardisation in the regulatory instruments we issue. We are partnering with Airservices Australia to investigate different ways of delivering flight authorisations near controlled aerodromes. Our service delivery transformation is a large piece of work and we are partnering with specialists in this field to make how you interact with CASA more streamlined and less burdensome. We are on track to roll out the initial stages this year.
It has been said of the RPAS industry in Australia, that it is changing at a revolutionary pace and not an evolutionary pace. The data certainly shows that to be the case. The number of remote pilot licences holders grew by 65% in 2017, with a total of 7,380 licences to date. RPA operator certificate holders grew by 70% in the same year, with a total of 1,283 operators to date. In 2018 we have so far seen some tapering of the exponential trend for operator certificates and I am happy to report our processing times for new operator certificates is significantly reduced. This is due in part to the increased number of RPAS Inspectors in CASA. But we recognise there is still much work to be done. That is why the Director, Shane Carmody, decided to create a dedicated RPAS Branch in CASA, and it commenced operations in August last year with me at the helm. The formation of the branch has brought together the existing standards and operational teams, and centralised accountability for policy formulation, regulatory development, regulatory services, oversight and enforcement.
The branch is also responsible for building effective relationship with RPA operators, manufacturers and industry associations, as well as safety education and public awareness of safe operations. It is a one stop shop and has certainly kept the team and me very busy.
And, I’m pleased to announce that we have an additional six new RPAS Inspectors that commenced just over two weeks ago. Each new inspector brings to the team a wealth of knowledge and experience in RPAS operations. That brings our total RPAS workforce in the branch to 22.
Hardly a day goes by where drones are not mentioned in the Australian media. Sometimes, not all the attention is positive. There is sharp focus on CASA at present in relation to what we are doing about drones. And that is a good question to ask – what is CASA doing about regulating drones for safer operations?
Well, one of our most significant challenges at present is how we interact with recreational drone users. Access to drones is as simple as heading down to your local electronics store, and buying the latest drone, ranging from a simple helicopter to an advanced quad-copter. There are no requirements to register your drone, or to conduct training, or to tell CASA who you are if you wish to operate recreationally with a drone under 150 kilograms. For CASA, we need use a somewhat of a broad-brush approach to our safety education on drones, in the hope of getting the message out to those people who decide to buy a drone for fun and fly recreationally. That is not to say we have thrown our hands up in the air because it is too hard. We have implemented a multi-channel communication and education strategy to get the message out about safe drone operations to new and existing recreational drone flyers. We have engaged with manufacturers and they have agreed to insert a CASA brochure into drone packaging that explains the simple recreational rules. We have spoken with retailers who have agreed to insert messages on sales receipts encouraging people to learn about CASA’s rules on our website.
We know that over the past year, the term ‘drone’ has been consistently in the top 5 key words in searches on the CASA website. We have simplified our website content and have created a dedicated, non-government branded website – droneflyer.com.au - targeted at recreational drone flyers, that has simple language, informative videos, and a short quiz.
CASA partnered with a vendor in 2016 to develop ‘Can I Fly There?’ - a free app that provides information about where recreational and excluded category drone operators can and can’t fly. Late last year we introduced the capability to display fire and emergency information in the app, from feeds automatically provided by state and territory authorities. The location of emergency operations appear as no fly areas for drones.
I’m pleased to announce that this week we will be releasing a new version that has the capability to show more dynamic airspace. This is particularly important for the upcoming Commonwealth Games where multiple temporary restricted areas will be active at different times throughout the Games. Whilst an AIP SUP and AIC have been promulgated about the Games, CASA recognises that the person on the street will be unlikely to be able to interpret such a document, or even know that such a document exists, so we have taken an approach to make compliance as simple as possible for recreational flyers.
We’ve taken innovative approaches – like cinema advertising – where we promoted our app as a free download. We’ve significantly ramped-up our social media presence – using paid advertising and promotion to increase our reach to get the message out on safe drone operations. We have created a number of short videos, designed for different audiences – like our Christmas drone video targeting people who received a drone for Christmas to fly responsibly, and we promoted the video though social media and traditional media outlets. We have standardised our messages – like our message on operating near emergency services during the bushfire season – If you fly – they can’t.
We’ve worked with manufacturers to see how they can leverage their systems and technology to help spread the safety message and keep people operating drones lawfully. Ideas like requiring new users to complete a simple online quiz before using their drone and geo-fencing restricted areas are great ways technology can be leveraged to facilitate compliance.
I mentioned Commonwealth Games a moment ago – this is a good example of our multi-channel approach. We engaged with the organisers to have drone safety messages inserted on admission tickets. We will have convenience advertising at locations in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, informing people about restrictions on drone use with the message – Play it safe these games – leave your drone at home. A manufacturer we engaged with is creating geo-fencing for temporary restricted areas, as well as requiring international visitors to Australia to complete a quiz on Australian drone rules in the manufacturer’s app before they operate their drone. We’ve included TRAs in our own app and have made it available globally so international visitors can download the app and do research on where they can fly before they land in Australia.
We have created a complimentary and simple to use website with a Google Earth interactive map to help recreational users know where TRAs are located by street address. We will have postcards at major hotels and backpackers in the area, advising of drone restrictions. We’re partnering with the Queensland Police and the Games organising committee to cross promote each other’s safety messages on social media. This is a great example of innovative thinking about how CASA can promote safe recreational drone operations.
With our recreational drone flyers effectively being the Australian public and any international visitors, we have a very broad audience. There is focus on how Australia and in turn CASA, manages the proliferation of drones. In fact, as many of you know, there is Senate Inquiry into regulatory requirements that impact on the safe use of RPAS. I have appeared at the Senate Inquiry hearings, alongside the Director, where CASA has been asked about what we are doing to keep the Australian public safe. The inquiry will likely wrap up at the end of this month and CASA intends to provide its final submission to the committee before that time.
In June 2017, the Former Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, the Honourable Darren Chester MP, announced a drone safety review to look at the approaches undertaken by CASA to the regulation of RPA operations. The review includes the safety benefits and cost effectiveness of mandatory registration, education and training for all RPA operators, as well as geo-fencing and other mechanisms to enhance safe operations. The review also looks at CASA’s operating model, the technology and operational growth of the RPAS community, and developments in ICAO and other aviation safety agencies. CASA has completed its draft report and will be providing it to the Minister shortly.
As part of the review, CASA promulgated a discussion paper in August last year on RPAS operations in Australia. The analysis has provided us insight – from the public and the RPAS industry – on key areas of interest. I’d like to share some of the insights.
We received 910 responses – 81% were from individuals and 19% from organisations.
The majority of respondents - 86% - support some form of RPA registration. The determining factor as to how registration should be applied is less clear, however registration by weight of the RPA is the preferred option.
Mandatory training and demonstrated proficiency are broadly supported, particularly for large RPAs.
Support for geo-fencing is divided, with 47% supporting geo-fencing while 53% do not. Many respondents see geo-fencing as not yet effective.
There is broad support for the use of counter-drone technology but limited to use by law enforcement personnel.
And we asked respondents to tell us what else CASA should be doing. The themes of the feedback indicates the respondents feel the current rules are sufficient and many said CASA is doing a good job. However, we also received recommendations to strengthen regulation for inexperienced operators, and comments were made that legislation does not keep pace with technological change.
CASA has used these insights in its planning and has formulated a response in our report to the Minister. It would not be appropriate to talk about the specific content of the report in advance of it being received by the Minister. It is reasonable however to assume, given the strong support for mandatory registration, that CASA has been researching and developing options on how registration may operate in Australia should such a requirement be mandated. We have been paying careful attention to developments in the USA, Canada, UK, China, and within the European Union on registration. We recognise that if registration were to be required, that it must be a simple system to use, have integrity in the data that is captured, and be easily integrated, where appropriate, into future systems providing e-identification and UTM.
In addition to the report, is the continued development of CASA’s RPAS regulatory roadmap. We recognise that the RPAS industry needs more certainty about where CASA is taking RPAS regulation.
The work of the previous UAS subcommittee continues to be built upon, and I am cognisant that many of you here today have provided thoughtful and valuable input into the roadmap to date and I thank you for your efforts. The roadmap is an important strategic deliverable for CASA – in fact, it is the very first deliverable mentioned in CASA’s current Corporate Plan.
The roadmap will provide a level of certainty about where CASA is moving with policy and legislation and will be delivered this year. Of course, CASA will continue to conduct consultation consistent with our obligations, such that we do not make decisions in isolation. The roadmap covers many subjects, including:
- Airspace integration and UTM
- Certification and airworthiness standards
- Detect and avoid
- Communication protocols and low cost ADS-B,
- Autonomous systems
- Registration and e-identification
- Training and competency
- Safety management systems and human factors.
The roadmap might not have all the definitive answers as the technology is evolving, however it will provide sufficient information where it is known, to provide certainty to you. I can tell you that in my conversations with the Director, he has made it clear that CASA will be a fast-follower of international developments so that CASA and Australia does not lag other countries.
To stay abreast of international developments and to be part of the right discussions, CASA regularly interacts with its counterparts in the FAA, Transport Canada, UK CAA and the CAA of New Zealand. We exchange information about the latest developments and current challenges in RPAS. This dialogue ensures we design our legislative framework to be common and interoperable where possible.
I spoke last week about the challenges CASA faces regulating and making decisions in the absence of legislated certification standards for RPAS at the Asia – Pacific Bilateral Partners Dialogues meeting here in Canberra, co-hosted by CASA and the FAA. CASA recognises that the RPAS industry will not be sitting idle waiting for CASA to come up with legislation around certification. But that is not to say that CASA does not have a framework in place for the assessment and approval of more complex RPAS operations.
CASA is an active member of the Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems – or JARUS. I know several attendees here also participate in the various working groups of JARUS. For those not familiar with the work of JARUS, it is group of experts from various national aviation authorities and regional aviation safety organizations, whose purpose is to recommend a single set of technical, safety and operational requirements for the certification and safe integration of UAS into airspace and at aerodromes. Presently, 52 countries contribute to JARUS, participating across seven working groups. CASA has representatives on working group three on airworthiness, and on working group six on safety and risk management.
In July 2017, as part of the deliverables of working group six, JARUS released its specific operation risk assessment or SORA. The SORA is a risk assessment methodology to establish a sufficient level of confidence that a specific operation can be conducted safely. It allows evaluation of the intended concept of operations, and a categorisation into six different specific assurance and integrity levels – and then recommends objectives to be met for each category.
CASA has adopted the use of the SORA into its policies on how we conduct assessments of applications for complex operational requests.
We first road-tested the SORA with the most recent and complex approvals associated with the Google X – Project Wing operation here in Canberra. For those not familiar with the operation, Project Wing is a drone delivery service, that commenced commercial operations in July 2017 in the semi-rural area of Royalla, on the outskirts of Canberra. Locals in the area sign up to have burritos and non-prescription pharmaceuticals delivered to their backyard.
As the project progresses and moves into the outer areas of Tuggeranong, more complex approvals such as beyond visual line of sight are required.
The SORA framework has provided a ready mechanism to work through the necessary requirements to be be met by the operator to satisfy CASA of a safe operation. It also means that CASA can provide a framework for operator to work through in advance of an application to CASA. This allows the operator to see what will be required by CASA and the standards to be met. The operator can then tailor their application accordingly - reducing costs and processing time associated with CASA’s assessment. Whilst the SORA is a mature process, there is still work to be done and CASA is presenting its learnings and recommendations at the upcoming JARUS workshop which will help refine the SORA process.
Participation in international forums such as JARUS is critical for CASA. We recognise that as a small agency of 810 staff, we do not have the resources to replicate the work of larger authorities such as EASA or the FAA. Our partnerships with other aviation authorities, and participation in ICAO and JARUS are important to ensure we are constantly learning and keeping up to date with the latest developments worldwide.
In relation to our current legislation – it does not remain static. We have completed the draft Part 101 manual of standards and will look to commence consultation in May this year. We have made improvements to Part 101 by way of an interim direction – a legislative instrument - in October last year that strengthened and clarified the rules particularly for recreational drone users. We introduced requirements about operating near non-controlled aerodromes, including helipads, when manned aircraft are operating, and requirements about not operating near emergency operations.
Our approach to people who don’t operate in accordance with the rules continues to be guided by our Regulatory Philosophy. We held a forum in November 2017 with state and territory law enforcement agencies to enhance coordination with CASA on the enforcement of drone safety rules, as CASA realises complaints are often made to local law enforcement. CASA ensures that its actions and responses are appropriate and proportional to the circumstances. In addressing RPA-related complaints, CASA adopts an approach to regulatory compliance based on the encouragement of training and education, with a view to remedying shortcomings. Where there are more serious, safety related implications, CASA instigates a coordinated enforcement process to identify the most appropriate response. In 2017, of the more serious matters, CASA issued 43 aviation infringement notices and 38 formal counselling letters.
Whilst the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has not received any reported incidents of a drone colliding with a manned aircraft, CASA is aware that this has occurred in other countries. We continue to work hard to ensure our regulatory regime, oversight and education continue to be effective and contemporary for both the recreational and commercial RPAS industry.
It is an exciting time to be part of the rapidly growing RPAS sector – yes, it is challenging for us as regulators, however it is also very rewarding to work with innovative and professional RPA aviators like you, in keeping our skies safe for all. Thank you.
I’d now like to take any questions that you might have.