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RPA Operations Over or Near People in Australia

Operating remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) over or near people in Australia requires strict adherence to regulations. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has issued specific guidelines under Part 101 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR 101.245 and 101.208). Operators need to understand and follow these regulations. UASys offers this guide to clarify CASA’s pathways for RPA operations over or near people and to help operators stay compliant.

CASA’s Pathways for RPA Operations

CASA’s Temporary Management Instruction (TMI) document outlines three distinct pathways. These pathways guide operators in getting approval for RPA operations over or near people. Each pathway has specific requirements that define permissible operations.

Pathway 1: Operations Near People in a Controlled Environment

Pathway 1 focuses on scenarios where drones operate close to people within a controlled setting. These environments follow structured safety protocols, providing secure interaction between drones and humans. Only authorised personnel are present, significantly reducing the risk of accidents.

Key considerations include rigorous pre-flight planning, continuous monitoring of drone behaviour, and using advanced sensors to detect obstacles. This pathway is ideal for film production, industrial inspections, and emergency response where human interaction is necessary.

  • Requirements: Obtain consent from active participants. Conduct operations in a controlled environment.
  • Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW): Less than 25kg.

Pathway 2: Operations with Minimal Impact

Pathway 2 aims to minimise environmental impact. It encourages practices that adhere to sustainability goals and set standards for minimal impact. This involves using advanced technologies and methods that reduce waste, conserve energy, and reduce ecological impact.

  • Requirements: Ensure that the operation is unlikely to cause serious harm upon impact, with a maximum of 15 joules.
  • Exceptions: Up to 34 joules is permissible if the environment is sheltered, and participants have given informed consent.

Pathway 3: Specific Operational Risk Assessment (SORA) Based Assessment

Pathway 3 provides a meticulous approach to assessing risks associated with drone operations. The Specific Operational Risk Assessment (SORA) identifies, analyses, and mitigates unique risks that aren’t typical in routine UAV operations.

The SORA methodology helps operators assess potential risks and implement tailored safety measures. This may include training for drone operators, specific flight planning protocols, or advanced technologies such as detect-and-avoid systems.

  • Requirements: Applicable to operations over or near people without their consent.
  • Impact Limit: Greater than 15 joules.
  • Assessment: Complete a Specific Operational Risk Assessment (SORA) to qualify for this pathway.

Seeking Approval Outside the Pathways

Operators can still apply for approval if their operations don’t align with these pathways. They must show CASA that their operations meet acceptable safety standards. Approval will come from the Executive Manager of National Operations and Standards and the Executive Manager of the Regulatory Oversight Division.

Conclusion

UASys emphasises the importance of complying with CASA regulations when operating RPAs over or near people. By understanding CASA’s pathways, operators can ensure their operations are safe and compliant. Whether your operation needs controlled environments, participant consent, or falls outside these pathways, working closely with CASA is essential for operational success.

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