Remotely Piloted Aircraft Regulations

Written by Kelvin Hutchinson, an embedded journalist in the Australian Pilot Magazine.

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The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has led the way world-wide for over ten years on regulatory framework, RPA Controller training and risk and safety considerations relative to Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) operations.

This foresight has allowed many Australian companies to create unique business models and even take out patents over essential aspects of the technologies creating long-term benefits to the Australian economy.

New Zealand, the United States and European aviation authorities have watched closely what the CASA have done and in the most part are copying the regulations, systems and processes. They all still do not have a comprehensive policy framework in place as yet.

RPAS are regulated under Part 101 of CASR 1998. It’s been relative simple to follow but in more recent years has been subject to controversy when it came to interpretation relative to training and RPA flight operations. Numerous CASA officials offered their personal views on what should be implemented which caused a number of new RPS business to fold waiting for decisions. That situation has now been fixed! Updated and more controversial regulations are due to be implemented by the CASA in 2015.

One of the most concerning issues commercial RPA operators have right now is that the CASA is allowing small, less than 2kg RPA to operate without regulation, licensing or flight training requirements. The concern is that thousands of small RPA flying around where and when they want will bring professional operators into disrepute even though the commercial operators are operating within the law. CASA’s view is that it’s a state and local government problem. To the best of my knowledge no one at CASA has advised them of this.

RPAS is a new industry with lots of potential. Many new businesses are springing up to take advantage of what is a cheap aerial delivery platform. Amazon, Google, Boeing and many more have advanced RPA business development programs in place and intend to be and remain industry leaders. RPA Controllers (Pilots) with experience, it is predicted will be in short supply within 2-3 years.

There are two aspects to think about what considering entering this industry. The first, do you want to have a business making money and the second, do you want to be an RPA Controller or Remote Pilot?

Most people want to fly RPA because they’re exciting and challenging. They get you outdoors and there’s something different and exciting happening every day. The money is pretty good also. Quite appealing?

If you want to take control of RPA you will need a Controllers Certificate (CC). This effectively is your Pilots License. You will however need to fly under someone’s Unmanned Operators Certificate (UOC) if you want to be paid. RPA Controllers cannot charge for flight services unless they operate under strict CASA business operator rules and guidelines.

To obtain a Controllers Certificate you have two possible options. The first is to sit the existing Private Pilots License (PPL) exam and then secure an Aircraft Radio Operators Certificate of Proficiency (AROCP) and then also have 5 hours minimum training on a CASA approved RPA. This option requires a lot of work on you part and ends up being quite expensive and complicated. As a guide budget around $5,000.

The second option is to attend a CASA approved Training Academy that only undertakes RPA training. Most courses are ‘live in’ over 7 to 10 days and you finish up with a CASA issued Controllers Certificate. As a guide budget around $4,000.

Upon completion of either method you become what is called a ‘Remote Pilot’.

Most aspiring Remote Pilots want to undertake multirotor training as they see that as offering the best opportunities in the future.

If you want to start you own RPA business you will need to secure the Unmanned Operators Certificate (UOC) from the CASA. The process is daunting, long and expensive. It is highly recommended that you either have aviation knowledge or have access to someone who does, and they have lots of spare time, to undertake the application process.

You are required to prepare and submit documents detailing:

  • Part A – General Policies and Procedures
  • Part B – RPAS Operating Procedures
  • Part C – Internal Training
  • Part D – Aerial Work Operations

You will also need to submit a business plan, conduct a risk assessment, know CASR 101 quite well, have pilot and maintenance manuals for all RPA you intend to fly, have trained crew and undertake a practical flying assessment. As a guide budget around $10,000.

In addition you will need to select, assemble and maintain to an acceptable standard your Remotely Piloted Aircraft. CASA will expect to see check lists, risk assessments and maintenance release documentation used before, during and after each flight.

Your UOC is only issued initially for 12 months after which you have a second assessment and pay a fee again to CASA if they choose to renew your OUC.

Despite the onerous conditions and time it takes it will be worth it for most. Because the barriers to entry are so high the few that do make it through will do well. It is an industry of the future and as soon as governments take up the technologies those in the driving seat will prosper.

If you have questions about training and OUC options email me at any time.

Next edition we will look at what is involved in training to become an RPA Controller and future job prospects.


RPA Training AcademyKelvin Hutchinson is a Chief Flying Instructor in the aviation sector and has a wide range of RPAS operations including the RPAS Training Academy based from Warwick Aerodrome in Queensland.

Contact Kelvin at kelvin@rpas.net.au or on 0407733836 or visit the website at www.rpas.net.au.

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