by Peter Gibson, Manager Corporate Communications, Civil Aviation Safety Authority
Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has been regulating the use of drones for a number of years. Here, we look at the latest regulations the authority is looking to introduce to ensure that the industry continues to operate efficiently and safely.
Australia was a world leader in developing safety regulations for aerial work/commercial and recreational remotely-piloted aircraft, commonly known as drones. These regulations have been in place for more than ten years and provide a sound set of safety standards for drone flights. The goal is to protect people, property and other aircraft from risks that may arise from drone flights.
The basic rules for aerial work/commercial drones are to keep more than 30 metres from people not involved in the flight, stay under 400 feet, keep the drone in line of sight at all times and do not fly over crowds or groups of people. And of course do not operate in a way that puts people, property or aircraft at risk. CASA can and does enforce these rules, with a range of infringement notices that can be issued with penalties of up to $9000. In serious cases, for example where someone was injured, CASA could seek prosecution and courts could impose a higher penalty.
CASA is looking at proposals to amend the remotely-piloted aircraft regulations that would impose less regulatory requirements for aerial work/commercial drones weighing less than two kilograms maximum takeoff weight. These changes would remove the requirement for commercial operations of remotely-piloted aircraft weighing less than two kilograms to have approvals from CASA, as long as the flights are conducted according to standard operating conditions.
These conditions will allow flights in non-populous areas more than 30 metres from people, below 400 feet and only during the daytime, with the remotely-piloted aircraft in line of sight. In a speech earlier this year, CASA’s Director of Aviation Safety Mark Skidmore, said CASA is looking at issuing a manual of standards to support the remotely-piloted aircraft regulations. This manual of standards would contain information on licensing, controlled airspace training, records management and operational standards. The advantage of having a manual of standards is that it would allow CASA to respond more quickly to changes in technology and other circumstances.
Mr Skidmore said CASA will begin work on developing a new set of regulations covering all aerial work/commercial remotely-piloted aircraft operations. The new regulations will cover issues such as beyond visual line of sight flights, operating in non-segregated airspace and flights with various degrees of autonomy and automation.
“We are considering the long-term integration of remotely-piloted aircraft into aviation operations in all classes of airspace,” Mr Skidmore said. “However, there are significant technological advances, regulatory changes, training and skills, procedures, documentation and education that need to happen before integration into all classes of airspace can take place. Further, there are a significant number of technical issues for which standards have not yet been determined around the world.”
There is a wealth of information on both commercial and recreational drone regulations and safety on CASA’s web site. Head to www.casa.gov.au.