CASA Drone Rules


The use of drones has grown rapidly over the past decade, with people using the devices for recreational and commercial purposes. Drone use has prompted complaints about privacy, security and safety to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), the federal government agency responsible for regulating aviation safety. CASA drone rules are being adjusted continuously to keep pace with drone development. These rules relate to factors such as hours of use, altitude, speed and proximity to people.

What is a drone?

A drone refers to an unpiloted aircraft, which is remote controlled or flown using software. It has onboard sensors, GPS, a power source such as a battery or fuel, rotors, propellers and a lightweight frame.

Drones have a wide variety of applications, including:

  • delivery of goods;
  • monitoring weather events;
  • search and rescue operations;
  • 3D mapping of terrain;
  • monitoring of traffic, livestock or fires;
  • photography and videography;
  • military operations.

Technological features vary across drone models and include maximum flight time, maximum speed, camera type, hover accuracy and obstacle sensory range. For instance, a drone could have a thermal sensor, for surveillance of livestock or fires; or a hyperspectral sensor, useful in determining crop health or water quality; or a biological sensor, to assess air quality.

CASA drone rules

CASA regulates the use of drones under the Civil Aviation Act 1988 and the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998. Drone safety rules are also known as “standard operating conditions”.

The rules state an operator can fly only one drone at a time and must not fly that drone:

  • higher than 120 metres above ground;
  • within 30m of people;
  • above people or a populous area (such as a beach or park);
  • to record or photograph people without permission;
  • over an area affecting public safety or an emergency situation such as a car crash or fire;
  • outside daylight hours or through cloud or fog;
  • within 5.5km of a controlled airport (if the drone weights more than 250g);
  • outside their line of sight.

CASA drone rules can be supplemented by state and local government laws. For instance, a local council can regulate the launching, landing and operating of drones on council land, and a state government can require a permit to operate a drone close to a whale or a dolphin in waters under its control.

Recreational drone operators

Registration of a drone with CASA for recreational purposes is required by 30 May 2022, with registration to open in March 2022.

Registration

Registration is to last 12 months. Fees will depend on how the drone is used and are to be determined by CASA after public consultation. Registration of a recreational drone is not required if the drone is not flown or if it is flown indoors only, and if it weighs less than 250g.

Accreditation

Operator accreditation from CASA is required by 30 May 2022, with accreditation to open in March 2022.

Accreditation will be free, completed online, last for three years, and allow for drone flying and supervision of others who fly drones. Children aged under 16 must be supervised by an accredited adult. The online accreditation process will involve watching a video then completing a quiz.

Model aircraft association members, flying at CASA-approved model airfields only, will not need accreditation.

Commercial drone operators

Registration of a drone with CASA for business or employment purposes is required by 28 January 2021.

Registration

Registration is valid for 12 months and is free before 30 June 2021. It is completed online and an applicant must be aged over 16.

It is required for drones, of any weight, flown to provide any type of service, including:

  • taking photos or video to be sold;
  • inspection of equipment, construction sites or infrastructure;
  • monitoring or surveillance;
  • research and development.

From 28 January 2021, flying an unregistered drone for business or employment could attract a fine of up to $11,100.

Accreditation

Remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) accreditation is required by January 28 2021 for anyone who uses a drone for business or employment purposes. Accreditation is free, completed online, and valid for three years.

Remote pilot licence

A remote pilot licence (RePL) is required for anyone who uses an RPA for business or employment purposes in circumstances that need specialist training. An RePL is required to fly a drone larger than 2kg for commercial operations, and outside drone safety rules. There is no minimum age requirement.

Remotely piloted aircraft operator’s certificate

A remotely piloted aircraft operator’s certificate (ReOC) is required for a business to operate as a drone service provider that employs remote pilots and flies drones outside drone safety rules. An RePL licence holder must hold an ReOC or be employed by an ReOC holder.

Excluded category

The operator of a drone that is classed as very small (between 250g and 2kg) or small (2kg to 25kg), where the drone is flown over the operator’s land only, for business or employment purposes, does not require an RePL or ReOC.

Very small drones are used in professions such as photography, real estate or construction. Small drones are typically used in landholder operations such as crop, livestock and equipment inspections; land surveying; and pest spraying.

If you require legal advice or representation in any matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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