Remotely piloted aircraft take off
From monitoring crops and cattle to conducting pipeline inspections and emergency management services, remotely piloted aircraft systems are used for a variety of purposes.
As at June 2015 CASA had more than 250 approved unmanned operator's certificate holders with another 130 applications awaiting assessment.
The growth of the remotely piloted aircraft sector continues on a sharp trajectory with aerial photography and engineering survey work forming two of the main categories of applications.
Other commercial uses include agricultural monitoring such as the checking of crops and conditions of fences on large properties, real estate and tourist photography, as well as marine studies using the technology to survey migratory patterns of fish through to highly specialised sports stadium work requiring specific exemptions and conditions of use.
A key benefit of remotely piloted aircraft is to reduce the time and effort required for jobs such as land mapping. A task which may have traditionally taken one person two days and a great deal of driving time to complete can now be done within a few hours.
Once an application is made for an unmanned operator's certificate, all applicants undergo an assessment and testing phase, prior to a formal decision being made.
This involves a desktop assessment of the applicant's manuals and associated materials followed by a practical skills test and interviews with the chief remotely piloted aircraft controller and maintenance controller.
The two-phase process takes approximately 25 hours per application and is designed to ensure theoretical knowledge is matched with a practical flight test based on tasks listed in the applicant's proposed operations manual.
In addition, all applicants are required to be aware of, and consider, privacy issues and must show within their operational manuals that their proposed operations have taken into account the relevant provisions under the Privacy Act 1988.
The remotely piloted aircraft sector is supported by a number of CASA safety education initiatives, including seminars run by CASA's aviation safety advisors, safety messages on CASA's YouTube channel, articles in Flight Safety Australia magazine, and point of sale material provided to purchasers.
The key challenges facing CASA's team of remotely piloted aircraft systems inspectors are the increasing number of new applicants, rapid changes in technology and the detailed safety assessment and consideration required for each application.
A remotely piloted aircraft system comprises the aircraft and associated components which work together to form the system.
More information can be found on CASA's website at www.casa.gov.au/rpa