Drone Laws in Australia: Are you flying your UAV / RPA legally?

Whether you’re a commercial flyer or a hobbyist, it’s important to know the laws that govern the use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (aka drones). It is worth remembering that despite their small size, drones are still regarded as aircraft by CASA. The rules for flying drones in Australia are covered under the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations Part 101. Below is a summary of some important rules for different types of flyers.

Recreational Drone users

If you are not making any commercial gain from your flying, then you may fly your drone without requiring certification (please note however that “commercial gain” can include flights for advertising purposes or even uploading videos to YouTube – there does not have to be a direct payment involved).

Here are the following simple set of rules set by CASA that are designed to protect people in the air and on the ground:

  • You must not fly above 120 metres in all locations
  • You must not fly your drone in the area of a public safety or emergency operation, for example a bushfire, police, or search and rescue operation
  • You must not fly within 30 metres of other people, unless other the other person is essential to controlling or navigating the drone
  • You must operate only one drone at a time
  • If your drone weighs more than 100 grams:
    • you must not fly within 5.5 kilometres of a controlled aerodrome (usually those that have a control tower) at any time
    • you must not begin flying within 5.5 kilometres of a non-controlled aerodrome if there is a manned aircraft operating to, or from, the aerodrome
  • You must safely manoeuvre your drone away from the path of a manned aircraft and land as soon as safely possible if you become aware that a manned aircraft is operating to or from the non-controlled aerodrome or helicopter landing site
  • You must not fly at night or through cloud or fog
  • When flying you must be able to see your drone with your own eyes (not just on your app screen, first person view goggles or binoculars)
  • You must not fly over people
  • You must not fly in designated restricted areas.

Download the Can I Fly There app to find out where you may and may not fly your drone.

Commercial Flight – Very Small RPAs (under 2 kg)

Since 29 September 2016 it is legal to operate a very small RPA (that is, one weighing less than 2 kg) without certification, if it is being operated in standard RPA operating conditions. This will be known as an excluded aircraft.

Standard RPA operating conditions means that the RPA must be operated:

  • within visual line of sight
  • below 400 ft AGL
  • during the day
  • more than 30 m away from anyone who is not directly associated with the operation (people being filmed are not considered to be directly associated with the RPA’s operation)

It may NOT be operated:

  • over a populous area
  • within 3 nautical miles of the movement area of a controlled aerodrome
  • in a prohibited area
  • in a restricted area that is classified as RA3
  • in a restricted area that is classified as RA2 or RA1 otherwise than in accordance with regulation 101.065
  • over an area where a fire, police or other public safety or emergency operation is being conducted without the approval of a person in charge of the operation

Download the Can I Fly There app to get a better understanding of the areas that are restricted for commercial and hobby flying.

What does this translate to? Real Estate photographers will usually NOT be able to conform with ALL these conditions and will therefore require a Remote Operator Certificate (ReOC) for their business to operate legally.

Commercial Flight – Non-Excluded RPAs

Any flights for commercial gain that do not come under the category of excluded operations (that is, if the RPA weighs more than 2 kg or is not flown under the Standard Operating Conditions) require certification of both the pilot flying the actual drone, and the business which is conducting the operation. The pilot must have a Remote Pilot Licence (RePL)  and the business must have a Remote Operator’s Certificate (or ReOC).

We have courses scheduled in most state capitals once or twice a month.

We are CASA Certified (CASA.UOC.0046) to deliver RPAS Training that will give you your Remote Pilot Certificate.

Call us on 1300 RPAS TRAINING (1300 772 787) or +61 2 4203 3007, or fill in our Contact Form.

CASR 101

Civil Aviation Safety Regulations Part 101 (CASR 101) consolidates all the rules applicable to Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs) into one body of legislation. Australia was the first nation in the world in the year 2000 to start drafting such laws in the anticipation of civil RPA operations. As a result, CASR 101 was sighted as a guide for many other authorities such as ICAO, the FAA and EASA as they drafted RPA legislation.

Please note the official terms used to refer to a ‘Drone’ or a ‘UAV’ by CASA – the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority – is RPA,which stands for Remotely Piloted Aircraft (indicating that there is still a human controlling the actions of the aircraft). RPAS = Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems.

CASR 101 also contains guidelines for fireworks displays and unmanned balloon flights. Such information is peripheral to the scope UAV operations.

See the CASA website for more information about CASR Part 101.

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