new rules from CASA, good news?



Unmanned aircraft are a hot topic of conversation in aviation circles around the world. Remotely piloted aircraft systems are here now and we all know technology is developing at a rapid rate, which means the future of this sector of aviation is both exciting and challenging. It is estimated that by 2020 the unmanned sector will have grown by between 200 and 500 per cent. Right now in Australia we have more than 450 organisations with unmanned operator’s certificates and this will rise to more than 600 in the second half of 2016. It is clear unmanned aircraft technology and capability is changing fast and aviation safety regulators are going to have to develop new safety standards and regulations to keep up. In a recent speech I made to the Australian Association for Unmanned Systems I said the challenge will be to balance the requirement for safe operations without inhibiting the growth and potential of the unmanned sector. This indeed will be a huge challenge.

Key issues for the future will include the use of unmanned aircraft in aerial work tasks, complete integration into airspace, the carriage of cargo and eventually carrying people. In addressing these issues we will need to fully understand the risks and how the safety regulations should address these risks. Remotely piloted aircraft that are very small, for example less than 2kg, may not require any approval as they pose a low risk and low potential for harm. Large remotely piloted aircraft will attract more stringent controls and will face greater scrutiny. For example, the Scan Eagle weighs about 20kg and is capable of flying to New Zealand. Therefore, in the interest of safety, it is prudent that the operator will be licensed, have a full risk assessment, and the operation will be treated like a conventionally-piloted aircraft. As the unmanned sector develops we will be required to add to or amend the regulations progressively to reflect operational changes. Our goal will be to find practical and safe ways to advance the operations of remotely piloted aircraft systems.

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A guy on our local facebook group posted this:


CASA wishes to advise that Civil Aviation Legislation Amendment (Part 101) Regulation 2016 has been registered on the Federal Register of Legislation.

This regulation amends the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998, Civil Aviation (Fees) Regulations 1995, Civil Aviation Regulations 1988 and Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003 to align with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) terminology, in particular by replacing the term 'unmanned aerial vehicle' (UAV) with 'remotely piloted aircraft' (RPA).

Key outcomes introduced by the Regulation include simplified regulatory requirements for lower risk RPA operations and an allowance for more detailed operational matters to be dealt with in a Manual of Standards, providing greater flexibility and responsiveness in a rapidly evolving area. More specifically, the Regulation establishes a set of standard operating conditions for RPA, categorisations for RPA according to weight or, in the case of airships, envelope capacity, and introduces the concept of 'excluded RPA' to represent RPA operations considered to be lower risk, as determined by RPA category and operational use. Excluded RPA have reduced regulatory requirements, such as not needing an operator's certificate or a remote pilot licence (RePL).

The Regulation permits private landowners to carry out some commercial-like operations on their own land under the 'standard RPA operating conditions' without requiring them to hold an Unmanned Aircraft Operator's Certificate (UOC) or RePL, if using an RPA weighing up to 25 kg provided that none of the parties involved receive remuneration. For RPA weighing between 25 kg to 150 kg, the operator needs to hold a remote pilot licence in the category of aircraft being flown.

The Regulation requires a person operating, or conducting operations using, a very small RPA for hire or reward to notify CASA rather than being required to obtain a UOC and RePL. The Regulation makes it an offence for a person to operate a very small RPA for hire or reward without notifying CASA and also allows CASA to establish and maintain a database of information that relates to these notifications.

The Regulation inserts new definitions into Part 1 of the CASR Dictionary and adds remote pilots, UOC holders, and people permitted to operate commercially without authorisations to the list of persons in Part 117 of CASR who must respond to CASA's surveys.

Autonomous flight is prohibited under the amendments until such time as suitable regulations can be developed by CASA. However there is scope for autonomous flight to be approved by CASA on a case-by-case basis in the meantime.

The Regulation broadens the eligibility for an RePL by not specifically requiring an Aeronautical Radio Operator's Certificate, enabling the holder of an equivalent qualification to meet the required standards in respect of radio communications. The Regulation also amends the Transport Safety Investigation (Voluntary and Confidential Reporting Scheme) Regulation 2012 to update the terminology from 'UAV' to 'RPA', thereby ensuring that the voluntary and confidential reporting (REPCON) scheme applies in relation to remotely piloted aircraft.

The instrument and explanatory statement are available on the Federal Register of Legislation at

End Quote.

Sounds good? Anyone more knowledgeable than me got a good summary?

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  • Crop dusting aircraft, especially those in the 7 to 25 kg range, constitute a serious safety risk. For mine and crops survey,I foresee the equipment becoming smaller and smaller. Small photographic drones would constitutes very small safety risk.

    UAV aerial surveys for mining and other industries is very new. From the discussions on this subject, you would think it had been around for decades.

    I too have an RPAS qualification, and I have argued for many years,very small remote aircraft should not require a license for commercial use. There are pluses and minuses for FPV, in some circumstances FPV is safer than line of sight. In all cases the lighter the aircraft the safer it is. 2 kg however is not my idea of a light UAV. Even a 1 kg UAV can cause considerable harm traveling at 80 km/h, if were to collide  with anyone.

    So I don't know what the answers is. i'm certain, these new regulations will not be enough.

  • I think it's been well thought out by CASA. I think it will foster technical innovation and create new business opportunities for people that can imagine uses for the sub 2kg class aircraft. I already know of one example that is hamstrung by the current rules and that posed no risk at all to public. It will be able to proceed after October now.

    For those using craft above that size it will still force compliance to much stricter controls. 

    As an RPA Controller certificate holder myself I feel no threat to want I do now, and welcome the changes. Australia needs to innovate quickly to compete with the rest of the world, and this should be the first of many measured regulation changes to achieve that.

  • Thanks for putting this up, Matthew.

    I wonder how many people will inform CASA they are taking commercial video with their P4 or Solo. Many people will take this as a free for all. It will create that kind of lunacy you get when there are no rules. Even though there are. Flying in and over crowds could make great video and injury. It will happen.  
    I think maybe the rules will change over time to account for carbon props , fiberglass fixed wing aircraft and other stuff.


    • Well if people take it as a free for all they will be prosecuted for breaches of the relevant sections and they'll learn the hard way.

      I don't think that CASA will honestly look at the construction items on the devices for very small RPAs, the risk profile is not different.  Larger devices maybe, but very small RPAs not likely (sub 2kg).  They will still need to stay away from people (30m bubble), avoid a failure mode where it could impact people.  If they impact a person and didnt follow the regs then they'll have to pay, also their public liability will need to cover commercial ops, otherwise they'll be paying some medical bills and loss of income.

      I don't think it will be total carnage but I do think a couple of select public fines will sort it out quickly.


  • Hi,

    I think it's a good set of rules.  In Oct it will allow for sub 2kg commerical ops, still need to follow the other regs (apply for area approval within 3nm of an aerodrome, dont fly in controlled airspace, etc).  You only need to notify CASA 5 days prior to your initial flight (not subsequent flights according to the revised regs).  Will allow very small RPA's (sub 2kg) to be used for the real estate photos with a gopro style camera - wont be slinging a DSLR on sub 2kg's.

    What it will do is shake up the rural / mining area of the market, in that owners of the property can fly up to 25kg devices.  This may cause issues for current UOC holders if those places start to move to inhouse ops but I think in this day in age with outsourcing all the rage that UOC holders will be fine, they just wont be able to charge a premium as places will do the financial test as to which one is more cost effective.

    Will be interesting to see what happens as part of this.  The biggest impact I feel will be on photogrammetry and mining, they will start to move it in house I think or there will be a bunch of players in that sub 2kg mark doing it, it will become very cut throat till it all settles down is my prediction.  Which is frustrating as I'm working on my UOC application at present and this is an area of the market I was going to focus on, may have to rethink that now.


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