Micro Drone Rule Kicks off in Australia This Fall


Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) says commercial operators of “very small” remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) – with a maximum takeoff weight of 2 kg (approximately 4.4 lbs.) – will no longer need to obtain a number of regulatory approvals, including an operator’s certificate and a remote pilot license.

According to CASA, the changes, which will take effect on Sept. 29, will cut regulatory costs for operators by thousands of dollars, save time and reduce paperwork.

Operators will need to notify CASA that they intend to use the RPAS – unmanned aircraft system (UAS) – for commercial flights and follow a set of standard operating conditions. The agency says it will provide an easy-to-use online notification system.

These mandatory conditions include flying only in the daytime, within the visual line of sight of the operator, below 120 meters (approximately 394 ft.), more than 30 meters away from other people, more than 5.5 km from controlled aerodromes, and not near emergency situations.

The package of changes made to the regulations also permits private landholders to carry out a range of activities on their own land without the need for approvals from CASA. This includes drones weighing up to 25 kg (approximately 55 lbs.), as long as it is not a commercial flight.

Similarly, several lawmakers and industry stakeholders in the U.S. have pushed for a micro UAS classification, which would separate drones weighing under 4.4 lbs. into their own category. Most recently, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., proposed this amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016.

Mark Skidmore, CASA’s director of aviation safety, says Australia’s changes maintain appropriate safety standards and also cut some red tape.

“While safety must always come first, CASA’s aim is to lighten the regulatory requirements where we can,” he explains.

“The amended regulations recognize the different safety risks posed by different types of remotely piloted aircraft. People intending to utilize the new, very small category of commercial operations should understand this can only be done if the standard operating conditions are strictly followed and CASA is notified. Penalties can apply if these conditions are not met,” Skidmore concludes.

An explanatory statement on the new rules can be found here.

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