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Drone Pilot Licence: What You Need To Know
Flying a drone is great fun, whether as a hobbyist enjoying the views around Perth and Western Australia from above, or as a professional capturing footage in the soaring industries of aerial surveying, photography, videography and data capture. As drones become more technologically advanced and are capable of greater use and have more impressive flight systems, the risk they pose to the aviation environment, aircraft and people makes regulation necessary to ensure public safety. In Australia, the creation and enforcement of these regulations fall to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), who have classified the rules for drone flights and operations under CASA Regulations Part 101 – Unmanned Aircraft and Rockets.
As in most parts of the world, every drone operator (pilot) must abide by a core set of rules that are designed to make flying for any reason as safe as possible. Manned aircraft always take priority over any drone.
The most important rules to remember are fairly universal, and are shared by many other countries’ civil aviation authorities:
● You can’t fly at an altitude of greater than 120 meters
● You can’t fly within 30 meters of people who aren’t related to the operation of the drone
● You can’t fly at night or beyond visual range (this may change in time)
● You can’t fly over populated areas.
More specific rules include:
● You can only fly one drone at a time
● You can’t fly a drone where there is an ongoing emergency situation, or otherwise in an area where public safety is affected
● For drones heavier than 100 grams, you can’t fly within 5 Kilometres of an airport or helicopter landing site, if there are manned aircraft using that airport or heli-site.
There are also no-fly zones (danger areas and restricted airspace) across the country that restrict drone operations. You can refer to any of a variety of apps and websites that document these restricted airspace zones, including the CASA’s official “Can I Fly There” APP.
Collectively, these rules may be described as standard operating conditions.
If you’re flying your drone for fun, then you don’t necessarily require a drone licence – however, you must follow Australia’s and CASA’s drone operating rules when flying.
However, as per CASA legislation, you may not use a drone commercially – i.e. for business, hire, reward, or profit of any kind – without prior CASA registration and/or pilot licencing certification. There are two categories of drones that are affected by this legislation.
It is highly recommended that lightweight drones (those that weigh less than 2 Kilograms) have operators flying them who are CASA licenced pilots, however, there are some circumstances which allow a person to fly a drone without a pilot licence. This type of operation and drones are considered part of CASA’’s “excluded” category. This means that drones can be flown within CASA’s minimum standard operating conditions. However, if you wish to do this then CASA must be informed first through the completion of a fairly simple process.
● First, you must apply to CASA for an Aviation Reference Number
● Next, you must submit a detailed online RPAS operations notification form along with your ARN prior to any drone flight or operation
● Optionally, download the “Can I Fly There” APP to become aware of no-fly zones.
Once you have a pilot licence or have notified CASA of your drone operation intentions, you’re ready to fly!
Flying one of these slightly bigger drones over 2 Kilograms requires you to acquire a couple of CASA licences, depending on whether you’re operating for yourself or for someone else, or a company.
As the pilot, you will need to acquire a Remote Pilot Licence (RePL). Just as with a sub-2 Kg drone, the first step is to apply for an Aviation Reference Number for you and your drone. However, depending on whether you have aviation experience, you’ll also need to complete a training course with a CASA approved flight training organisation, such as Australian Training Management. Such training involves both theory and flying operations, which culminates in a CASA drone pilot flight assessment. The RePL does not need to be renewed once you attain it.
After acquiring your RePL, you’ll be able to fly your drone commercially if your client or operator holds an RPAS Operator’s Certificate (ReOC). You may also apply for and obtain your own ReOC if you’re flying as part of your own business. Getting a ReOC involves a significant submission of relevant RPAS documentation for your drone operation, as well as formal interview and a Chief Pilot flight assessment with a CASA Inspector. The ReOC is valid for 12 months and is subject to renewal.
Some of these laws and application processes may sound a bit daunting, especially if you’re flying a heavy, high-end drone professionally. To make things easier for you, consider Australian Training Management (ATM) for your certification needs. ATM specialises in delivering tailor-made training solutions that are cost-effective at any scale, whether for individuals or large companies.
Australian Training Management’s CASA accredited Remote Pilot Licence training course provides you with a high-quality 5-day course in everything you need to learn to attain your RePL and to become a successful drone pilot in any industry. Successfully completing ATM’s RePL course will immediately see you endorsed as a Remote Pilot from CASA, alongside the Aeronautical Radio Operator Certificate, which will also allow you to operate an aeronautical radio to monitor surrounding air traffic and to warn aircraft if your drone flies away unexpectedly and uncontrollably.
Get your drone pilot licence training from Australian Training Management now and take to the skies quickly, safely, and professionally!