Reducing The Red Tape: The Lowdown On Upcoming Regulation Amendments For Your Eye In The Sky.
Within Australia, The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA for short) regulates the use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) – better known as “drones”. In March 2016 they announced that regulatory requirements for the use of drones are being eased. The amendments will apply to drones used in commercial operations- weighing less than two kilograms.
So What Do The Changes Include?
Those with drones under 2 kilograms will no longer need to obtain a number of regulatory approvals- including an Unmanned Operators Certificate (UOC) and Remote Pilot License (RePL). Not only will this reduce operators’ costs by thousands of dollars- but it will also save a lot of time and paperwork.
Currently UOC & RePL applications take about six months to process, and assessments taking up to three months with average fees being estimated at $2,300! So drone operators can have a sigh of relief- they will now only have to provide one notification to CASA at least 5 days before their first commercial flight.
The changes also permit private landholders to carry out a range of activities on their own property without the need for approvals from CASA. This includes drones up to 25 kilograms in weight- where no money is paid for flights.
Set For Take Off?
They may be toys for some, a hobby for others. But for commercial use- its serious business. Operators can be fined up to $9,000 for not adhering to CASA regulations.
The new regulations also establish a new set of standard operating conditions specific to these RPAs.
The New Standard RPA Operating Conditions
- You must only fly during the day and keep your RPA within visual line-of sight.
- You must not fly your RPA higher than 120 metres (400ft) AGL.
- You must keep your RPA at least 30 metres away from other people.
- You must keep your RPA at least 5.5km away from controlled aerodromes.
- You must not fly your RPA over any populous areas. These can include: beaches, parks and sporting ovals.
- You must not fly your RPA over or near an area affecting public safety or where emergency operations are underway (without prior approval). This could include situations such as a car crash, police operations, a fire and associated firefighting efforts and search and rescue.
- You can only fly one RPA at a time.
Autonomous flight is prohibited under the amendments. CASA is still developing suitable regulations for autonomous flight. However, there is scope for CASA to approve autonomous flight on a case-by-case basis.
These changes aren’t due to take effect until 29 September 2016, so until such time- current licensing and operating standards still need to be adhered to. CASA is set to release a full range of forms, guidance and easy-to-use online notification system in alignment with the amendments.
What About Safety And Responsibility?
The last few weeks has seen backlash from certified drone operators around the country in regard to CASA’s amendments to RPA regulations.
“Drone operators around the nation are demanding the government strike out legislation that will deregulate the commercial operation of remotely piloted aircraft, saying the new rules will result in accidents.” Bingemann, M. (2016, July 1). Drone owners demand tougher legislation. The Australian.
CASA will make it mandatory that the Standard Operating Conditions must be included with the sale of any drone. There are concerns that these operating conditions are not strict, nor clear enough in explaining the risks associated with piloting unmanned aircraft.
To ensure safe operation of RPA’S, a future possibility could be to introduce streamlined training, assessment and licensing that is also cost effective and less time consuming than current processes.
Better To Be Safe Than Sorry
Currently, it is unlikely any insurer will issue Public Liability Insurance to an operator without an Unmanned Operators Certificate (UOC). And, as with any business; Public Liability Insurance is a necessity to protect an operator’s livelihood and the people around them. When considering using a drone operator, it is still crucial to make sure they have the appropriate certification and insurance.
Drone Disaster Waiting To Happen?
Are current licensing and applications are too costly, time consuming and rigorous?
Could the new regulations see an increase in drone related incidences?
Are you a “dronethusiast”, hobbyist or certified drone operator? We would love to hear from you. Post your thoughts in the comments section below.
By Bobbie Cole, Top Snap Marketing