Aussie Drone Services chief pilot Wayne Chambers.
Aussie Drone Services chief pilot Wayne Chambers. Marc Stapelberg

Drone operators will no longer need a licence

DRONE enthusiasts will soon be able to purchase and fly a drone without an operator’s certificate or remote pilot licence.

Regulatory requirements for commercial operators of very small, remotely-piloted aircraft are being eased in late September.

Their maximum take-off weight must be less than 2kg.

These operators will need to notify the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA)they intend to use these aircraft for commercial flights according to a set of standard operating conditions.

They include flying only in the day, in a visual line of sight, below 120m, keeping more than 30m away from other people, flying more than 5.5km from controlled aerodromes and not operating near emergency situations.

Aussie Drone Services pilot Wayne Chambers said there were some issues around the changes for clients of drone services, because smaller drones had less capacity, resolution and ability to operate in certain weather conditions.

“The other things are pilot skills and capabilities – the actual process of flying a drone requires a degree of rigour, flying experience and safety management skills,” he said.

“It will be hard to tell if a non-licenced drone operator will have that.

“If someone is considering employing a drone operator, and they are unlicenced, they need to consider the insurance implications.

“When we do work for TV stations, we are required to have professional or indemnity insurance to cover property or things like that.”

Mr Chambers also said the change in regulations had positive implication for smaller, private operators and people who owned their own farms.

A spokesperson for CASA said they always recommended people consider public liability insurance, but insurance was not an area CASA dealt with when it came to drones.

“We have concluded the level of risk and consequence in smaller commercial operators is lower and different and therefore appropriate level of regulation is suitable,” he said.

The package of changes made to the regulations covering remotely piloted aircraft also permits private landholders to carry out a range of activities on their own land without the need for approvals from CASA.

These includes remotely piloted aircraft up to 25kg in weight where no money is paid for flights.

CASA’s director of aviation safety, Mark Skidmore, said the changes to the remotely piloted aircraft regulations maintained appropriate safety standards while cutting red tape.

“While safety must always come first, CASA’s aim is to lighten the regulatory requirements where we can,” he said.

“The amended regulations recognise the different safety risks posed by different types of remotely piloted aircraft.

“People intending to utilise the new very small category of commercial operations should understand this can only be done if the standard operating conditions are strictly followed and CASA is notified.

“Penalties can apply if these conditions are not met.”

The amended remotely piloted aircraft regulations take effect from September 29.

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