Drone Registration & Pilot Accreditation in Australia; the Facts…
Published: 10 May 2020
Updated: 29 September 2020
For Australian drone pilots, the day is coming: drone registration and pilot accreditation.
Back in July 2019, the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Regulations were amended to incorporate the introduction of drone pilot accreditation and drone registration. This comprised over 95 alterations to the Regulations. Following weeks of late nights combing over the changes, we have syphoned the key points for the need to know, and here it is.
While originally flagged for November 2019, the deadline has been pushed out twice.
Drone registration and pilot accreditation for Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) is to begin on 30 September 2020, with all commercial drones required to be registered by 28 January 2021.
Drone registration and pilot accreditation for Model Aircraft will come into play sometime in or after March 2022.
CHANGE TO DEFINITIONS
RPA currently means: a Remotely Piloted Aircraft, other than a balloon or a kite.
Once registration and accreditation come into play, the definition of an RPA will become: a remotely piloted aircraft other than a balloon, kite or Model Aircraft.
Model Aircraft currently means: an aircraft that is used for sport or recreation, and cannot carry a person.
Once registration and accreditation come into play, the definition of a Model Aircraft will become an aircraft, but not a balloon or a kite, that does not carry a person AND IF the aircraft:
(a) is Being operated for the purpose of sport or recreation; AND has a gross weight of not more than 150 kg; OR
(b) has a gross weight of not more than 7 kg, and is being operated in connection with certain educational, training or research purposes of either (i) a school in relation to which there is an approved authority under the Australian Education Act 2013; or (ii) a higher education provider within the meaning of the Higher Education Support Act 2003.
The new regulations make it very clear that while both can be drones, an RPA is not a Model Aircraft.
WEIGHT CATEGORY CHANGES
The designated weight categories to distinguish the different types of drones are changing. The most significant change is that the ‘micro RPA’ category is increasing from a gross weight of 100g or less, to a gross weight of not more than 250 g. The upshot of this is that the Very Small RPA category will shrink form more than 100g but less than 2kg; to more than 250g but not more than 2kg.
If you already have a Remote Pilot Licence (RePL), then the accreditation requirements generally do not apply to you.
If you do not have a RePL, then you can apply to CASA for accreditation to operate either:
(a) an excluded RPA, micro RPA and Model Aircraft; OR
(b) a Model Aircraft only.
That is, accreditation or a RePL will be required to operate any RPA; accreditation will only be required to operate a Model Aircraft over 250g.
Who can be accredited?
To be eligible for accreditation you must:
(a) be at least 16 years old; and
(b) have completed an online training course provided by the CASA; and
(c) have passed a CASA exam. (the ‘pass’ mark might be more than 50%).
A remote pilot under the age of 16 must be supervised by an accredited person 18 years of age or over when operating any RPA, or Model Aircraft over 250g.
A remote pilot licence is not required to operate an excluded RPA. An accreditation is sufficient.
Which drones must be registered?
Every RPA will need to be registered.
Every Model Aircraft must be registered EXCEPT Model Aircraft:
– that is a glider; OR
– with gross weight of not more than 250g; or
– with a gross weight of more than 250g AND is operated indoors; or at a CASA-approved Model Aircraft flying field and subject to the field’s rules.
Who can register a drone?
You must be 16 years or older to register a drone. The person who applies to register the drone will be the registration holder of the drone. If a person is supervising a drone pilot who is under 16 years old where the drone should be registered and is not, then the supervisor will receive the penalty.
RPA v Model Aircraft registration
If you register a drone as a Model Aircraft, it must be operated exclusively as a Model Aircraft. That is, you must not operate a Model Aircraft as an RPA. However, a drone registered as an RPA may also be operated as a Model Aircraft.
Upon registration, you will receive a certificate of registration and if your drone does not have a serial number then you will receive a registration mark. A certificate of registration may cover more than one drone.
Registration typically lasts 12 months.
If you transfer ownership of your drone, the new owner is to make a transfer application within 28 days.
The regulations flag that the Part 101 Manual of Standards (MOS) may prescribe requirements relating to the identification or marking of drones required to be registered. At present, the MOS does not appear to make this mandatory.
CASA is authorised to disclose information relating to your registered drone to a person providing an air traffic service or an enforcement body for an enforcement related activity.
While the costs of registration is likely to be for each individual drone, the precise registration costs per drone is yet to be announced.
As we have just seen, drones are now being regulated more like motor vehicles or piloted aircraft rather than the often used but incorrect characterisation as “toys”. With the huge growth of the industry, the integration of drones into airspace, and the millions of dollars being invested by various Big Swingers, drones are growing up, and like becoming an adult – more freedom comes with more responsibility.
The Drone Lawyer
10 March 2020
Boring lawyer disclaimer: this article does not constitute legal advice.