Commercial unmanned flight - remotely piloted aircraft under 2kg
Amendments to Part 101 commenced on 29 September 2016. CASA introduced reduced entry requirements for people wanting to fly a very small (100g < 2kg) remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) commercially.
- Effective 29 September 2016, the new category of excluded RPA came into effect, with reduced regulatory requirements to fly very small RPAs commercially. Operations under 2kg (excluded) will not need 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.
What you need to do
1. Notify CASA five business days before flying
- You can notify CASA via the online notification form.
- 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.
- When completing the online notification form, use the + button to select up to 50 locations and 5 RPA categories on the one notification form.
- Your notification is only valid for 24 months, so you will need to re-notify CASA every two years. If your operating details change during the two year period (e.g. different location, RPA category), you will need to submit a new notification form to CASA.
2. Operate within the standard operation conditions
Ensure flights are conducted in alignment with all of the requirements of the Part 101 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations. More information and guidance on how to abide by these regulations is provided in advisory circular available for download.
- Advisory Circular AC101-10
Standard Operating Conditions
- You must only fly during the day and keep your RPA within visual line-of sight (VLOS) - close enough to see, maintain orientation and achieve accurate flight and tracking.
- 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.
- Referenced to a point on the ground immediately below the RPA at any time during the flight.
- You must only fly your RPA during the daytime only (not after sunset).
- You must keep your RPA at least 30 metres away from other people i.e. any person who is not charged with duties essential to the safe operation of a remotely piloted aircraft.
- You must keep your RPA away from prohibited/restricted areas.
- 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 (populous area).
- You must keep your RPA at least 5.5km away from controlled aerodromes - one with an operating control tower.
- 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 traffic accident, police operations, a fire and associated firefighting efforts, and search and rescue.
- You can only fly one RPA at a time.
Operations within the 3nm radius of an uncontrolled aerodrome or helicopter landing site (for exceptions please refer to Advisory Circular (AC) 101-10) are possible and lawful providing you do not operate on:
- the approach and departure path or
- within the movement area or
- create a hazard to aircraft that may be using those areas.
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.
Operating in parks - additional considerations
Please be aware the above regulations only cover aviation safety. As well as complying with these rules, there may also be local council and/or national park laws prohibiting drone flights in certain areas.
Always research the area you plan to fly in before taking-off and contact the local council or national park if you are unsure about possible restrictions.
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. Generally, 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 be unlikely to 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:
- permission to operate closer than 30 metres, but no less than 15 metres, from a person
- night time flying (with night approval)
- the ability to get approval to the regulations e.g. beyond-visual-line-of-sight where CASA accepts that the safety case for the operation maintains the current level of aviation safety
- the ability to apply for a range of different additional approvals. However, be aware there are also state licensing requirements for various flight activities (eg, applying agricultural chemicals)
Remotely piloted aircraft system resources and links
Frequently asked questions, further reading, RPA related website and 'Flight Safety Australia' magazine articles are available online.
If you have any questions about flying an excluded RPA over your own land or other RPA operational enquiries, please contact CASA’s RPAS Office by completing the RPA online form.