The RPA operator's certificate for drones
Learn about the RPA operator’s certificate for operating drones
When do I need a certificate?
If you fly a drone or remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) commercially in Australia, outside the excluded category, either you or the person/company you are flying for needs a RPA operator’s certificate (ReOC).
A remote pilot licence (RePL) will allow you to fly an RPA for an operator, who in turn needs to hold a ReOC. So, if you are working for yourself, you will 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 some commercial operations.
The category includes RPAs lighter than 2 kilograms and some private landowners and leaseholders.
What are the benefits of having a certificate?
There are benefits to having a ReOC even if you are not required to do so. If you already have a RePL it means you can work for yourself as well as for other operators who hold a ReOC.
Not having a ReOC means that if you are flying commercially, you are limited to flying a very small RPA in most situations. Generally, if you want to fly anything heavier than 2 kilograms you need a ReOC.
You can also apply for a range of approvals, allowing you to operate under conditions that are not normally permitted. (See Advisory Circular 101-01 on CASA’s website.)
It may also be easier for you to get reasonable rates on business insurance.
Where do I get a certificate?
You can apply for your ReOC through CASA or an authorised industry delegate.
Industry delegates are currently only authorised to conduct the initial issue of ReOCs for non-complex aerial operations. If you want to vary or renew your ReOC, you will need to apply to CASA.
Industry delegates are listed here. Inclusion on this list does not constitute a recommendation or an endorsement by CASA. The fees charged by Industry delegates may differ from those of CASA because delegates are not bound by the Civil Aviation (Fees) Regulations 1995.
How do I get a certificate?
To gain a ReOC you need to:
- complete the application forms 101-02 and 101-04
- complete and submit supporting documentation including an RPAS operations manual and an RPAS operations procedures manual
- pay the fee
- participate in an interview with CASA or an authorised industry delegate.
The relevant forms and a sample manual can be found on this website.
How long is my certificate valid?
ReOCs are valid for an initial 12 months, so you have to renew after one year. Upon renewal, certificates are then valid for three years.
There is a small fee associated with each application.
CASA will contact you asking for information about the past 12 months of RPA operation before assessing your application to renew.
How do I get permission for additional flight activities?
Once you have a ReOC you can apply to operate outside some of the standard operating conditions. In all instances your first point of contact is email@example.com.
Additional flight activities include flying:
- at night
- within 5.5 kilometres of a controlled aerodrome, that is, an aerodrome controlled by an air traffic service
- above 120 metres
- within 15-30 metres of a person.
Permission to fly
Having a ReOC means you can apply to fly in some areas not normally allowed. But you do have to gain permission.
To fly within military controlled airspace, you need permission from the Department of Defence. The Department of Defence needs a minimum of ten working days to process requests.
To fly in restricted airspace, you need permission from the authority controlling the area, such as police, emergency services or the Department of Defence. You will probably have to abide by specific conditions. (See Advisory Circular 101-01)
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 101-10 - details on operating excluded RPAs
- forms including ReOC application forms, a sample RPAS operations manual and RPAS operations procedures manual
- a list of RPAS training providers
- a list of industry delegates
- ARN application forms
- frequently asked questions.