It’s App-ening: Getting Your App onto the CASA Drone Digital Platform.
Earlier this month, the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) released some materials on how software developers can apply to connect to its Drone Digital Platform, which we will simply call the “Platform”.
While the Platform first launched in July 2019 with its first app, ‘OpenSky’, it has now provided further materials so others can apply to get on the Platform and essentially be endorsed by CASA to provide apps to drone operators.
The link to the page with the materials is available here and comprises 5 documents over 92-pages. If you’re interested but not that interested, below is an executive summary.
 CASA has introduced a web-based digital software solution – the Platform, which enables CASA to manage drone-related advisories, rules and regulatory services in a digital form.
 While for all intents and purposes it’s CASA’s Platform, CASA actually operates the Platform under a licence from the Platform Developer – Wing Aviation LLC, which we understand to be related to a well-known organisation starting with ‘G’ and ending with ‘oogle’.
 The aim of the platform is to provide a central source of trusted data on drone-related advisories, rules and regulatory information.
 Third-party apps developed by industry that are approved by CASA can independently interface with the Platform to exchange data with CASA systems and other third-party applications to deliver a range of regulatory and operational information to drone users in Australia.
 Applications, approval and onboarding occurs twice per year. For the current round, you need to submit an application by 10 Dec 2019 and deliver an app that can be released by 28 February 2020. Next round of applications will open in early-2020.
INTRODUCED IN PHASES
 The Platform’s functions will be developed and released in a phased approach.
Phase One: the first functions released through the Platform were selected to deliver safety information to drone users about where they may safely and lawfully operate their drones in Australia. This has been done by way of the OpenSky app, currently the only app on the Platform.
Phase Two: to allow apps connected to the Platform to integrate with CASA’s systems to assist with delivery of regulatory services to drone operators. This will allow the processing of near real-time approvals of drone flight permission and approval requests that meet pre-defined approval criteria for defined locations and altitudes.
 CASA has flagged that the Platform may also provide the building blocks for a future drone traffic management system.
WHO’S WHO IN THE ZOO?
 There 4 primary roles defined for the Platform:
[A] Application Users: the drone operators;
[B] Software Providers: the app developers/managers;
[C] CASA: approves apps to be on the Platform;
[D] Data Providers: provide data to satisfy the requirements of the Platforms operating rules e.g. Geoscience Australia, Airservices Australia, Parks Australia.
 CASA does not intend to charge Software Providers to connect to the Platform but may require Software Providers to pay for services e.g. data feeds, delivered through the Platform that would not otherwise be available free-of-charge outside the platform.
 The Software Provider is responsible for its own costs in connecting to the Platform. CASA will not reimburse providers for any such costs.
 Software Providers may charge end-users for using the app, and pass costs on to their users e.g. via paid subscriptions and advertising revenue. CASA may prioritise the onboarding of Software Providers that offer some, or all, services at no cost to application users.
 Approved apps may collect and pass-on end-users regulatory service fee payments for regulatory services delivered through the Platform.
MANDATORY THIRD-PARTY DATA
 CASA is currently working with Airservices Australia (Australia’s air navigation service provider) to provide airspace data as a data feed through the Platform. If this is not available before the start of the initial onboarding trial, Software Providers will need to source this data directly from Airservices Australia. There is a cost for accessing this data.
HOW TO MAKE MUSTER?
 In order to become approved to interface with the Platform, a Software Provider must meet a number of requirements and follow certain operating rules before being considered for approval by CASA.
 Each app will need to go through a separate onboarding test process. Software providers will have up to two attempts to complete the onboarding tests. If an application fails both attempts, the software provider will not be able to proceed in that onboarding round.
 While not currently a requirement for approval, CASA may in future require Software Providers to become certified as a data service provider under Part 175 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations before they can be approved to deliver certain information or services through the Platform. Part 175 establishes standards and requirements for the quality and integrity of data and information used in air navigation.
 In general, all intellectual property rights remain with the provider. That is, CASA’s IP remains with CASA; the Platform’s IP remains with the Platform Developer; Third Party Data Providers’ IP remains with the relevant Data Provider, and the Software (app) IP remains with the Software Provider.
WHAT DO I ACTUALLY GET ONCE GETTING MY APP ON THE PLATFORM?
 If your app is approved then CASA will grant you an initial period of 4 years, with a 2-year option period, for a personal, non-exclusive, non-transferable, world-wide, revocable (cancellable) licence to:
(a) enable your app to interface with the Platform;
(b) use CASA Data to operate with the app;
(c) develop and maintain the app; and
(d) Commercialise CASA Data in conjunction with the app.
 The Software Provider’s use of the Platform is at its own risk. The Platform is provided without warranties and provided on an ‘as is’ basis. Neither CASA nor the Platform Developer warrants that:
(a) the Platform will be suitable for the Software Provider’s intended use, or continuously available;
(b) use of the Platform will be error-free or uninterrupted;
(c) errors in the Platform will be corrected;
(d) CASA Data will be accurate, current or complete; or
(e) the format in which CASA Data are made available through the Platform will be usable by the Software Provider, or compatible with the Software Provider’s Systems.
 Within 90 days of kick-off, CASA may conduct a review of your app to ensure it continues to function in accordance with CASA’s Operational Requirements.
 CASA may also conduct scheduled testing of an app no more than twice each year, and ad-hoc testing of your app at any time, without having to notify you.
 The Software Provider agrees to be bound by the Privacy Act as if it were an Agency. This essentially means that the Software Provider is treated like an Australian Government agency insofar as its privacy obligations.
 CASA may suspend or reduce the Software Provider’s level of access to the Platform where:
(a) CASA reasonably suspects that the Software Provider has committed or may commit a breach of its agreement with CASA;
(b) CASA reasonably considers the Software Provider:
(i) has adversely affected, or may adversely affect, the security, stability, reputation, integrity or operations of the Platform, or
(ii) is at risk of no longer being approved by CASA to access CASA Data or connect to the Platform.
 Even if there is a suspension or reduction of the RPAS Platform, the Software Provider must continue to perform its obligations under its agreement with CASA.
 The Software Provider may terminate its agreement with CASA at any time by giving CASA six weeks’ notice.
 CASA may terminate or reduce the scope of its agreement with the Service Provider at any time, by giving the Software Provider eight weeks’ notice. If so, the Software Provider will not be entitled to any compensation.
 If there is legal stoush between CASA and the Software Provider, it is dealt with under the laws of the Australian Capital Territory.
While the Platform hurdles may be high, the cost of not getting onto the Platform could be higher. For some organisations, having CASA’s endorsement by being on the Platform might be what separates the dinosaurs from the crocodiles.
The Drone Lawyer
25 November 2019
Please note: this is information of a general nature, and our interpretation of the Platform requirements. It is not legal advice. However, if you would like legal advice please be in touch.