The remote pilot licence for flying drones
Learn about the remote pilot licence for drones
When do I need a licence?
You need to be licensed and/or certified by CASA if you fly a drone or remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) commercially in Australia, outside the excluded category.
A remote pilot licence (RePL) allows you to fly for RPA operators, who in turn need to hold an RPA operator’s certificate (ReOC). So, if you are working for yourself, you need both.
What is the excluded category?
The excluded RPA category allows low-risk RPA operations in certain circumstances without the need for a ReOC or RePL. This includes commercial operators with RPAs lighter than 2 kilograms and some private landowners and leaseholders operating RPAs up to 25 kilograms. For private landowners and leaseholders operations above 25 kilograms you are required to hold a RePL.
What are the benefits of having a licence?
There are benefits to having a RePL even if you are not required to do so.
You can fly commercially without a licence under the excluded category but you have to adhere to a strict set of standard operating conditions. These conditions are very restrictive and you are unlikely to gain any exemptions.
Getting a RePL gives you advantages over non-licensed operators. Providing you are working for an approved, certified operator (or have your own ReOC) you may be able to fly:
- at night
- above 120 metres
- within 5.5 kilometres of a controlled aerodrome, that is, an aerodrome controlled by an air traffic service
- within 15-30 metres of a person.
Where do I get a licence?
There are two ways to gain your RePL.
If you have no prior aviation knowledge, you complete a course with an RPAS training provider.
If you have already passed an aeronautical knowledge exam for a flight crew licence, you only need to complete practical training with an RPAS training provider and a minimum of five hours flight time.
Before you apply for your licence, you will need to get an Aviation Reference Number (ARN).
How do I get a licence if I have no aviation experience?
If you have no prior aviation knowledge, you need to do a course with an RPAS training provider. It will cover both theory and practical training. The training provider will apply to CASA for a RePL on your behalf when you complete the course.
If your training course does not include an Aeronautical Radio Operators Certificate (AROC) there are limitations on your licence. These restrictions include flying below 120 metres and outside 5.5 kilometres of an aerodrome controlled by an air traffic service. With an AROC or equivalent qualification these restrictions can be lifted provided you are working for an RPA operator approved to carry out such operations. (See Advisory Circular 101-01 for equivalent qualifications.)
The radio certificate is delivered by aviation training schools-and some RPAS training providers-and includes an English Language Proficiency assessment.
How do I get a licence when I have already passed an aeronautical exam?
If you have already passed an aeronautical knowledge exam for a flight crew licence, you need to do practical RPA training.
RPAS training schools provide the extra practical training you need for a RePL.
How long is my licence valid?
You do not need to reapply for your licence once you have one.
What if I hold a UAV controller certificate?
If you already hold an unmanned aerial vehicle controller certificate (UAV controller certificate), you can continue to operate under the conditions of your CASA certificate.
When do I also need an RPA operator’s certificate?
If you have a RePL, you may operate commercially outside the excluded category with a ReOC holder, or apply to get your own certificate.
See Regulation Reform information sheet: The RPA operator’s certificate for operating drones.
Want to know more?
For details on the rules and general information on drone operations in Australia, including an eLearning module suitable for all operators, visit:
On this website you will also find:
- Advisory Circular 101-01 - details on flying commercially (other than with excluded RPA)
- Advisory Circular 101-03 - details on flying RPAs for fun or recreation
- Advisory Circular 101-10 - details on operating excluded RPAs
- the RPAS Notification System
- ARN application forms
- how to apply for a ReOC and RePL
- frequently asked questions.