If you’re an aspiring drone pilot in Australia, it’s crucial to understand the process of getting a drone license. With the right license you can fly your drone legally and safely. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through the necessary requirements, training options, and regulations to help you navigate the path to becoming a certified drone pilot. Whether you’re a hobbyist or aiming for commercial drone operations, this blog will help you with all the essential information you need.
Section 1: Understanding drone license requirements in Australia
When it comes to drone flying in Australia, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of the different license requirements and categories. This section provides an overview of the drone license landscape in Australia, including the various certifications and licenses issued by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), Australia’s government body for aviation safety and regulation.
CASA has three main categories of certification and licencing for drone pilots.
- Operator Accreditation
- Remote Pilot Licence (RePL)
- Remotely piloted aircraft Operator’s Certificate (ReOC)
Additionally, there is another category known as recreational drone pilots, who fly drones for fun. These pilots must adhere to specific drone safety rules and are not allowed to fly for work or commercially.
Section 2: Recreational Drone Flying
If your primary purpose for flying a drone is to capture a few snapshots for social media, or to get a handle on how to fly, then you probably fall under this category of recreational drone flyer. It’s important to note that as a recreational flyer, you are not permitted to use your drone for commercial or work-related activities.
There are some important rules to follow when flying your drone:
- Do not fly your drone higher than 120 metres (400 feet) above ground level
- Keep your drone 30 metres away from other people
- Fly one drone at a time
- You must keep visual line-of-sight (VLoS). This means being able to see the drone with your own eyes, and not through a screen or goggles.
- Do not fly above people or in populous areas. This can include beaches, parks, events, sport ovals etc.
- Respect other people’s privacy, don’t record or photograph without consent as you could be breaking other laws.
- If your drone is more than 250g, then you have to fly 5.5 kilometres away from a controlled airport.
- If you’re near a helicopter landing sight or smaller aerodrome without a control tower, you can fly so long as there is no other crewed aircraft around. If there are you must land asap.
- Only fly in the daytime, and not through cloud or fog.
- Don’t fly over an area affecting public safety like a fire, or police operation.
- Don’t fly in a way that creates a hazard for anyone else.
Section 3: Operator Accreditation
Under this category you don’t need to have a RePL or ReOC to fly a drone for commercial or business use. CASA calls this the excluded category.
Under this category, you’re allowed to fly commercially to do (but not limited to):
- Selling photos or videos taken from a drone
- Inspecting industrial equipment, construction sites or infrastructure
- Monitoring, surveillance or security services
- Research and development
- Any other drone activities for your employer.
The accreditation is:
- Valid for three years
- Required to fly and supervise others.
To be eligible, you must:
- Be 16 or older. If you’re under you must be supervised by an accredited adult (over 18).
- Follow the drone safety rules which are the same as recreational drone flying above.
- Follow the standard operating conditions for excluded category drones.
To get an Operator Accreditation:
- Get an Aviation Reference Number (ARN) from CASA
- Complete the quiz on the myCASA portal. You can find it under ‘Individual account’ then ‘Drone accreditation’.
Section 4: Remote Pilot License (RePL)
You’ll need a RePL if you want to:
- Be a remote pilot for an individual or business that holds a ReOC
- Fly a drone that weights more than 25kg, but less than 150kg over your land.
- Is provided by CASA, once you have passed the RePL theory and practical exams
- Does not expire
- Does not have an age restriction
To get your RePL, you must:
- Get an Aviation Reference Number (ARN) from CASA
- Train with a certified RePL training provider like Global Drone Solutions where you can get a discount through UASys.
- Pass the theory and practical skills components of the training course.
Section 5: Remotely piloted aircraft Operator’s Certificate (ReOC)
You’ll need a ReOC if you want:
- Yourself or business to trade as a drone service provider for hire or reward
- To conduct a range of operations (subject to approval) that are outside the normal drone safety rules
- To employ remote pilots.
- Does not allow you to operate a drone. You must have a RePL or hire someone who does.
- Is initially valid for 12 months, and then renewals are valid for 3 years
- Can be varied with your business needs, such as changing key staff roles, business name or scope of activities.
To get your ReOC, you must:
- Complete the ReOC application form
- Submit necessary supporting documentation such as your RPAS Operations Manual
- Pay the CASA application fee
- Pass the chief remote pilot (CRP) assessment.
Our partner at Global Drone Solutions can help you attain your ReOC.
Section 6: Drone Types
Although there’s plenty of differences in drone licensing and certification, CASA also classifies drones based on their weight and operations.
The weight classes are:
- Micro: 250g or less
- Very Small: More than 250g, less than 2kg
- Small: More than 2kg, less than 25kg
- Medium: More than 25kg, less than 150kg.
It is also mandatory to register your drone with CASA if you fly for:
- Business (commercially)
- As part of your job.
And if your drone:
- Weighs less than 500g: It is free to register
- Weighs more than 500g: There is a $40 levy per drone.
Section 7: Conclusion
Obtaining a drone license in Australia is an important step towards becoming a skilled and responsible drone pilot. By completing the necessary training, and adhering to regulations, you’ll gain the confidence and knowledge to operate your drone legally and safely. This not only enhances your skills as a drone pilot, but also opens up a world of exciting opportunities to explore various applications, including aerial photography, surveying, or even starting your own business. Obtaining your license is more than just a legal requirement, it’s a demonstration of your dedication and professionalism towards piloting. Remember safety should always be your top priority, but never forget to enjoy the exciting world of drone flying!
To ensure you get the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding drone licensing requirements in Australia, we recommending consulting the official CASA website or seeking professional advice from approved training organisations