Changes to Australian RPA Legislation


The Australian Government has recently registered an amendment to the Civil Aviation Legislation Amendment (Part 101) - concerning the regulations of Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPA's).

Some of the more interesting changes are:

4 classes of RPA, based on all-up-weight:

  • Micro RPA (0-100g)
  • Very Small RPA (100g-2kg)
  • Small RPA (2kg-25kg)
  • Medium RPA (25kg-150kg)

Commercial Operation

No training or licences required to operate Micro and Very Small RPA's commercially in standard flight conditions. However, CASA does have to be notified 5 working days beforehand.

Operation over Private Land

Small RPA's and below can operated over private land (the landowner/occupier must own the RPA) in standard flight conditions without requiring any licences or training.


New “Remote Pilot Licenses” to replace UAV Controller Certificate.

Standard Flight Conditions

Standard (not needing an exemption from CASA) conditions have been tweaked slightly to:

  • Under 400ft AGL
  • Outside of 30m from other people
  • Not over a populous area
  • Not within 3nm of an airport
  • Not in a restricted or prohibited area
  • Not over an area where public safety or emergency operations are being conducted (without their prior permission)
  • Is within visual line of sight by the operator

The full changes to the legislation are available at


Note this legislation does not come into effect until 1 October 2016

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  • I can see this legislation as a great thing for small business operators who now won't have to go and fork out over $3-4k for a course, 'cause it means I will be able to start charging for aerial work (if I so desire) and do it legally. And... for the consumer drones, as someone said, this will create opportunities for drone operators.

    But, I think that you will also get what you pay for, as Chris said earlier. Shooting on a DLSR, or even filming raw 6k on a RED or a BM camera is very specialist, (regardless if you are on a drone), and so you should expect to be registered and have a qualified operator doing that kind of filming. You wouldn't be using a Phantom or Solo for this stuff. Cinema stuff is a different ball game...

    As a drone operator around the 2kg weight range, I would be happy to do a course of some sort, if not an introduction or a basic level of official training (regardless of my current skill set) - if they exist. I had been working in broadcast radio for several years (still do now too), and while there is a bachelor of broadcasting of a 3 year course, I went and did an Introduction to radio for about 10 weeks. I knew nearly everything in the course, but it was still at least some formal industry recognition of a skill set. Just some thoughts. I'd like to see that happen for the drone world. :)

    If it was me and I'd done the full week course to take video, or stills, I'd be a bit peeved. I am glad the Aussie government is moving forward in this area on a practical level though. Well done CASA.

  • Hi @Darius,

    Our regulations here do not require RPA's under 25kg's to undergo any checks at all.  From 25kg's to 150kg's (I recall it being 150kg - might be 125, cant remember the exact figure) it requires an inspection to be done.  The parts will be looked at to determine if they are suitable for that application.  If the manufacturer says they are good for that and no information to counter that then they are treated as good.  Higher than 150kgs requires much more checking and parts need to be looked at much more closely.

    Rather than asking Tridge to talk to our minister, why dont you read our regulation and see for yourself.  No need for anyone to talk to the Minister they wouldn't have any direct knowledge of this stuff anyway, they will go off what their agency recommends unless it sound crazy - then they'll put forward their view.  We happen to have a great regulator who understands the potential of RPA's, unlike other governments who have a more restrictive approach.

    Australia has 18+ years of commercial ops and fosters innovation rather than stifling it.

  • Hi Daryl,

    That's my interpretation too, if an operator can take control then it's ok for flight.  So waypoint flights within visual LOS are fine.  Those that are BVLOS and fully autonomous require CASA approval still, which is fair enough in my eyes.

    What they are avoiding is those that may want to sell a turn key solution that is it takes off, scans the mine or farm and then lands.  Repeat every hour with no human involved in the piloting.  Or take off, fly 20kms away and land, pickup package and return.  CASA wants to be involved in approving those sorts of operations until it's proven safe, that way they can add additional conditions as required.  Take the UAVChallenge as a good example.


  • Hi Chris

    True. UOC operators now need to focus on the service business model more, were potential clients are only interested in the results and not operating because it's cool to fly a drone... and from October also legal to do it for money.

    From what I can tell there isn't a requirement that the owner also operates the RPA, only that the ownership of both property and RPA is clear. So an employee could potentially fly too (which makes sense for big farmers etc to establish realms of responsibility). This means a lease agreement of the RPA which includes an "external" operator should also be possible as a business model.

  • The explanatory text includes "Autonomous flight is prohibited under the amendments until such time as suitable regulations can be developed by CASA", but goes on to define autonomous flight as "an operation during which an unmanned aircraft is operating without pilot intervention in the management of the flight". And autonomous aircraft as "aircraft that do not allow pilot intervention during all stages of the flight of the aircraft". (emphasis my own).

    Even though those definitions are different, my understanding is that waypoint flights with auto takeoff/land are still allowed, provided the pilot can take control if need be, especially as my recent OC assessment required me to demonstrate such a flight.


  • Hi JB,

    I think UOC's will have to find better ways to market / sell themselves.  A sub 2kg is good for basic real estate work, photogrammetry and other similar work.  So they will find if they were in those areas that they will have a lot of new players in October.  If they want to do TV, high end photography or film work then they'll require that UOC as 2Kg wont cut it.  Also Insurance companies will need to offer products, otherwise people may avoid them and use UOC holders (who can currently get insurance).

    Also a mine or a farm may not want the overhead of managing their own stuff, sometimes its just easier to outsource it all - economies of scale and all.

    Yes the ownership question will be interesting, I'd suggest if you have 3 parties who own it then you'll need all their consent unless someone is appointed as the operator.  Also likewise I think you'll find that the leasee in this context would be considered the 'owner'. Needs some clarification to be sure - maybe something to get added to to the lease on property to be sure.


  • Thanks Stephen!

    Made my day hearing this has finally come through! Sweet!

    Poor UOC operators though...can see the pain coming for them unless they have their clients wrapped up in contracts. Many larger organisations will likely start operating themselves with sub 2kg. Hope that segment can stay clean to keep the doors open for business. No registration is a bonus as well.

    In particular up to 25kg operating over your own property sounds interesting, the question is whether a lease or share is good enough to show "ownership". I have 3 people in the family alone interested in that for farming, who are also neighbors. 

    Officially I think its going to be a boom time in Australia for drones! Lets go! ;-)

  • Hi @Guy,

    I should clarify, from a real estate photo perspective I don't anticipate CASA giving a blanket approval over Metro Sydney for example (this would be due to the hospital helipad, etc).  I wish they would as a hobby flyer can do it if they stay under 400ft kind of seems a bit backwards to me).

    I see what your saying, wow I've read that section I dont know how many times, thought I had a good handle on it and never noticed the 'above' wording.  I say good luck to them and it certainly would open the market up alot, no need for area approvals for most of Metro Sydney then if you stay under 400ft.....  Wow, that is interesting.  As long as they dont intefere with full size.  The only limitation is the populous area part and that is easily managed, a park not in use is not a populous area, a quiet street is not a populous area (both of those I've got confirmed in email correspondence with CASA).  Equally a busy road is a populous area, likewise a park with a soccer game in progress is a populous area.  Populous area is a bit subjective but any operator I would recommend discuss specific scenarios with CASA - they are a good bunch who do reply to you in a reasonable time to clarify any of those definitions.

    Still surprised that the wording is above and never noticed it before......

  • Great stuff!!

  • I think that a bunch of UOC holders doing photogrammetry arent' going to be happy, this is where I see the biggest impact.  Mining / Farming ops are going to consider in house ops if UOC's charge too much for their services - but their are more costs than might first seem apparent (by the time you get some RTK GPS's, the software, breakdown costs, etc) .  Also note that most photogrammetry can be done on a sub 2kg drone that for commercial ops is going to be an exempt so their will be some low cost operators come October.

    This will be a bit of a shakeup for the industry but a move in the right direction I feel.

    Also note that CASA has stated their intent is to move the 2Kg to a higher value over time, so we all need to operate safely so that in 5 to 10 years time they will increase it to a larger value.  The ball is in our court - lets hope we can all play by the rules.


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