Drones, aka unmanned aerial vehicles, aka remotely piloted aircraft, aka model aircraft, aka umm okay you get the idea, are regulated under the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (see our previous article). Changes to the regulations are about to reduce the cost and red tape involved in operating smaller drones (we settled for the snappiest name).
Many of the changes are to terminology which is annoying but sensible. The updated terms will match those used by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
Here's our rundown of the changes:
1. Drones are split into new weight classifications from very small (under 2kg), to large (over 150kg). The weight classifications help determine which regulations apply.
2. The UAV operator's certificate will now be called a remotely piloted aircraft operators certificate (ReOC) or a remote pilot licence (RePL). It depends what is being flown, and what is being done, as to whether a ReOC or RePL applies.
3. Lesser regulations will apply to excluded RPA (for instance, commercial operators flying very small drones). And standard operating conditions apply to excluded RPA.
4. The standard operating conditions include things like only flying during the day, keeping the drone within visual lineof sight and keeping the drone at least 30 metres away from other people.
5. Pilots must keep control (the regulations prohibit autonomous flight), but CASA can make exceptions to this on a casebycase basis.
The changes take effect from 29 September 2016, at which point CASA intends to release further guidance. Watch this space for more updates from us.