Creating drone operation intelligence for your Remote Operator Certificate is key to making informed business decisions. Recording of flight data is usually seen as an unpleasant duty, a compliance requirement completed under duress. However, this data, if collected accurately, can provide some important insights into your drone operations and drive smarter operational decisions in the future.

What the Chief Remote Pilot is required to record.

A Chief Remote Pilot of a Remote Operator Certificate is required by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to record certain items. These items include:

  • Drone flight hours
  • Drone defects; and
  • Drone incidents.

From this required data the Chief Remote Pilot could immediately identify defects per flight hour or incidents per flight hour. Say the operator also recorded:

  • Drone purchase price
  • Battery flight times
  • Battery purchase price

The Chief Remote Pilot could now identify information regarding battery performance and aircraft cost per flight hour. A simple increase in data capture provides powerful drone operation intelligence for the Chief Remote Pilot. For example, a set of TB48 batteries for a DJI M600 retail at approximately $2000. If the batteries last 150 cycles, every time the batteries are charged the expense is $13 in acquisition costs alone.

drone operation intelligence for chief remote pilot

The journey to drone operation intelligence

Paper based records

As a Chief Remote Pilot the main tool for drone operations is the operational documentation suite. This suite sets the tone for what information needs to be recorded and retained. New operators usually rely on the CASA templates which include paper based records.

When operations are in their infancy and flight hours are low, paper records are cheap and cheerful. There is nothing wrong with maintaining a crawl, walk, run mentality provided accuracy of the data is maintained. The same drone operation intelligence can be extracted via a paper method, though it is time consuming to process and becomes exponentially more difficult when additional aircraft and/or remote pilots are added.

Digital based records

The leap to digital is the time-saver. Maybe now the Chief Remote Pilot shares a spreadsheet over a common cloud. Formula can be used to automate the collation of data and data can be visualised through charts and graphs providing a quick method to interpret the insights that the operator needs.

Some flight applications such as DJI Go record flight information for you during flight. While this is an efficient way to capture information, further work is required to extract meaningful information.

Application based records

There are other CASA requirements besides the collection of flight data. Flight authorisations, Job Safety Assessments and Risk Assessments are also required as part of the Remote Operator Certificate. Again, without systems and processes recording of such information can seem laborious.

With the view of increasing drone operation intelligence, potential issues can be captured before they occur. As the operations under the Remote Operator Certificate grow, cloud-based applications such as AVCRM begin to increase the drone operation intelligence level further.  Multiple locations with multiple remote pilots become easier to visualise increasing the intelligence from what has been, to include what the future holds. Senior Base Remote Pilots can be nominated for the Chief Remote Pilot to delegate tasks.

Chief Remote Pilots can easily manage flight approvals, personnel qualifications and training requirements within the same portal as flight data is collected. Simple colour codes give a view of potential issues before they occur, increasing uptime and ultimately profit. Standard reports across all recorded data provide insights into the Remote Operator Certificate at the push of a button.

Standard prices on already developed applications such as AVCRM, allow budget to be allocated to drone operational intelligence at a known price.

 

Custom application based records

When all available drone operation intelligence is not enough, create your own. Many options exist to create a custom database capturing all key criteria for your operation. These can also double as Customer Relationship Management tools providing a view from initial lead through to job completion. Not for the feint hearted, custom applications can go as far as allowing the introduction of artificial intelligence. This can provide opportunity to create dashboards analysing hundreds of data points internal and external to your organisation.

For fans of Air Crash Investigations, it is the perfect example of collecting information and strategically using the intelligence to provide future safety outcomes. Government organisations have been collated information for years on aviation accidents. Aviation learns from the past and applies learnings to future operations making aviation safer for everyone. The same system applies for drones in Australia. If all Remote Operator Certificate holders reported all accidents and incidents collectively, not only would drone safety would increase but drone operation intelligence across all operators.

Recording of flight data should not be a chore. Instead capturing of data should be an opportunity to learn and improve. As the use of drones matures, the operators with drone operation intelligence will prevail.

Since the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) announced their anticipated drone registration, misinformation and fear mongering has been quick to follow. Drone registration is in the most part a very positive step for the continuance of drones in Australian skies.

There is no doubt that drones are here to stay, their use provides economic, social and safety benefits across many areas. Australian business alone gains a competitive advantage and drones have become critical in their processes. In an environment where drones are available for purchase, to both child and professional alike, protective measures need to be put in place.

Before the widespread adoption of drone technology, smaller RC aircraft were usually limited to a group of passionate RC flyers, quietly tinkering with their aircraft at the local MAAA model field. The club offered a safe, controlled area to fly, insuring the liability of members should the worst occur. Now drones appear in every shop window and are being taken to the streets en masse.

Drone registration helps identify the “cowboys”

Since drones have become widely popular the number of “cowboy” operators have exponentially increased. These are the drone users with no regard for safety measures or regulations, risking public safety. There is no place for non-compliance when it comes to aviation activities.

Professional operators are growing increasingly frustrated by the “cowboys” who challenge and risk the day to day benefits of the technology. Monitoring technology exists today that can identify drones whilst in flight up to 50km away. These units, such as the DJI Aeroscope, can receive information such as:

  • Serial number
  • Aircraft type
  • Position
  • Height
  • Speed
  • Controller position
  • Take off position

drone registration helps identify drone users

This information can be observed in real time or by historical playback and covers a high percentage of popular drones being flown today. Even now, illegal flight activities are reasonably easy to identify but much harder to enforce.  Enter drone registration, where the serial number broadcast by a drone matches an individual person in the drone registration database. Illegal flight activities are further discouraged and enforcement becomes much easier. Aviation around the world features a non-punitive culture and it would be remiss of a regulator to allow drone registration to erode this culture.

Better data allows for better outcomes

The number of Remote Operator Certificates (ReOC) has now surpassed traditional Air Operator Certificates (AOC) for piloted aircraft. Traditional methods of funding the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) cause a disparity for remote aircraft operators.

drone registration helps statistical data
Historical drone user data

One common complaint from ReOC holders is how long processes such as approvals take to get completed. Whilst the drone registration fee is designed for cost recovery, aviation in Australia works on a user pays system. Simply put, if you want, you must pay. A funding strategy change can only be a positive result for remote aircraft.

Another benefit of the drone registration system is data. On the commercial drone front, data and statistics are relatively easy to come by. The number of Remote Operator Certificate and Remote Pilot Licence (RePL) holders is known. There is data through a voluntary survey surrounding how much flying is being undertaken by holders of Remote Operator Certificates.

However, there is little data on how much flying excluded category holders are conducting and no information on the amount of recreational users. It is very hard to make decisions with no information. The drone registration process allows regulators to gain valuable insights on how, why and where drones are being used, enabling them make informed decisions to increase the capability of drones.

Other frustrations occur when local government seek to control drone use. The additional statistical data, if shared, would enable these organisations to embrace safe use of drones rather than attempt to restrict it.

Drone registration is a soft launch

Drone registration is not going to be implemented overnight. It is slated for the Remote Operator Certificate (ReOC) holders from July 2019. ReOC holders already have their remote aircraft listed within their Operations manual, a drone registration process is simply an extension of this. Estimated cost of drone registration for ReOC holders is $160 per drone.

Excluded category operators are next in line. Drone registration is planned for September 2019. This is the first time excluded category holders will have to list their aircraft.  Estimated cost of drone registration for excluded category operators is $100

Recreational users have until November 2019, the drone registration process should be a well-oiled machine by this time. Estimated cost of drone registration for recreational users is $20.

The drone registration process will be joined by an online training module for excluded and recreational users.

Don’t want to pay drone registration

If you don’t want to pay for drone registration there are a couple of options available.

1)      Fly a remote aircraft less than 250 grams.

2)      Fly a remote aircraft indoors.

3)      Fly a remote aircraft at a CASA recognised model field.

The drone registration system is a direct recommendation from the recent senate enquiry. Around the world, history shows that when governance of drones gets too hard, drones end up blanket banned. To date, Australia has been very progressive when it comes to the technology, featuring many world firsts in our airspace. There is a financial burden to drone users by the implementation of the drone registration system, however the potential benefits from this system could significantly outweigh the cost. The true potential of drone technology is only at the beginning of being realised.

Remote Pilot Licence categories

Choosing the right aircraft for the job is an integral part of a utilising drones successfully. Each drone type has their pros and cons as well as licensing requirements.

Drone type categories

There are four distinct drone type training categories for the Remote Pilot Licence (RePL).

  • Multirotor
  • Fixed Wing
  • Powered Lift
  • Helicopter

Each of these drone type training categories requires a separate endorsement. During a Remote Pilot Licence (RePL) training course a single drone type is provided. Should you need multiple drone types, they may be added to your initial Remote Pilot Licence course or added at a later stage.

Drone type weight categories

There are also drone weight categories per individual drone aircraft type. While officially there are only two, in reality, there are three. The drone aircraft weight is based on the Maximum Take Off Weight (MTOW), that is the aircraft including fuel/batteries and payload.

The first weight category covers aircraft less than 25kg. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority will further restrict this, to less than 7kg, if your Remote Pilot Licence training has been conducted on an aircraft less than 7kg. This weight category is independent of manufacturer and payload. You can fly any aircraft of the drone aircraft type you hold a Remote Pilot Licence for, up to the maximum allowable weight.

Once the drone MTOW is above 25kg, the licensing is per individual aircraft type. That is, your Remote Pilot Licence will be for the individual manufacturer and aircraft design.

MultirotorFixed WingPowered LiftHelicopter
<7kg<7kg<7kg<7kg
<25kg<25kg<25kg<25kg
Per aircraft typePer aircraft typePer aircraft typePer aircraft type

Drone type designs

Multirotor

The Multirotor design is by far the most popular and versatile drone aircraft type. This design features multiple propellers and differs power to each propeller to control the aircraft.

Pros

This design allows for vertical take/off and landing in confined areas and the ability to hover making these aircraft type perfect for aerial photography, cinematography and inspections.Some Multirotor designs also feature redundant motor/propellers meaning the aircraft will continue to fly in the event of a motor failure.

Cons

The Multirotor design is not a very efficient design. They are common nowadays due to miniaturisation of components, not necessarily because they are better than previous designs. When it comes to a large scale job the Multirotor will take a significant amount of time to complete the task

The Multirotor design also relies on computers to control flight. Should these systems fail the aircraft effectively turns into a brick. Some Multirotor designs feature redundancy in their components to counter for this fragility.

mutirotor aircarft type

Fixed Wing

The fixed wing design is similar to a traditional aircraft we are accustomed to travelling on. This design utilises motors to propel it through the air and moving control surfaces to manoeuvre. Fixed wings are generally used to cover broad areas for applications such as mining, agriculture and surveying.

Pros

The fixed wing design is the most efficient and can cover a large area in a shorter timeframe. The design also uses less energy to fly as its shape naturally produces lift as it travels through the air.

Computers in this design make the aircraft easy to operate but are not essential for the aircraft to maintain flight.

Cons

The fixed wing design lacks the ability for vertical take off and landing. This means the design needs more room for take off and recovery. Smaller fixed wing designs often do not have wheels to land on and can be damaged if landing in rough terrain. In most cases the body of the aircraft can be replaced cost effectively.

ebee aerial survey

Powered Lift

The Powered Lift (VTOL) design operates both as a Multirotor and as a fixed wing. The aircraft takes off vertically like a Multirotor then transitions to a fixed wing. This design features components common to a Multirotor and to a fixed wing. Powered Lift are generally used where fixed wings have traditionally been used for applications such as mining, agriculture and surveying.

Pros

The Powered Lift design is the best of both worlds. The design features the vertical take off and landing capability of a Multirotor and the efficiency of a fixed wing.

Cons

Powered Lift designs often have a lower wind limit than that of their fixed wing and Multirotor counterparts. In the hover the wing becomes a destabilising feature.

Powered Lift designs feature complex algorithms to control flight. Some flight routines are unable to be completed without the assistance of the on board computer

Helicopter

The helicopter design is similar to a traditional piloted helicopters. Once spinning the rotor is manipulated to control the aircraft. This design is more efficient than a Multirotor but less efficient than a fixed wing

Pros

The helicopter design features all of the capabilities of the Multirotor aircraft but is vastly more efficient at completing the task. The aircraft can take off and land vertically and maintain a hover.

Cons

Large spinning blades increase the consequence if something goes wrong.

Component failure can result in loss of controlled flight.

This table shows what aircraft types are in common use for different commercial drone applications.

helicopter aircraft type

 

MultirotorFixed WingPowered LiftHelicopter
Photography, Film and TVYesYes
Roof and solar inspectionYesYesYesYes
Real EstateYesYes
Drones for mappingYesYesYesYes
Drones for surveyingYesYesYesYes
Bridge and building inspectionYesYes
Power line inspectionYesYesYesYes
Drones in miningYesYesYesYes
Stockpile assessmentYesYesYesYes
Vegetation crop mappingYesYesYesYes
Wildlife tracking and stock inspectionYesYesYesYes
Aerial weed sprayingYesYesYesYes
Search and rescueYesYesYesYes

Aviassist is a Civil Aviation Safety Authority certified company specialising in drone training and dedicated to providing aviation expertise to Australian Business. Aviassist provide Remote Pilot Licence training on Multirotor 25kg, Fixed Wing 7kg and Powered Lift 7kg. About Aviassist

Hundreds of Australian companies are using drones commercially. How do you become an attractive candidate for a drone pilot job?

There can be many facets to a drone pilot job. It is common that a drone pilot job role is coupled with job components such as processing of information. That might be survey information, editing of video or writing of asset reports. Drone pilot jobs, simply to fly the aircraft exist, but numbers are limited.

Drones are undoubtedly saving Australian companies hundreds of thousands of dollars and most large companies are using them in some fashion. There are a number of things you can do to position yourself to gain a drone pilot job.

Unfortunately some of the less esteemed training organisations use marketing hype to recruit new students on a promise of future success.

drone pilot job

drone pilot job

So, what do you need to be successful? Firstly, drop the impression that you will be a millionaire overnight solely because you can operate a DJI Phantom legally.

 

Understand the company you want your drone pilot job with

When incorporating new drone activities, or expanding current drone activities, a company has the option of taking on a new employee or upskilling a current employee. Recruiting is also a hard task for an employer, there is considerable risk in hiring the wrong person.

Solely having a drone licence may not make you the most attractive candidate at the time. Spend some time researching the company’s use of drones, including software packages they may use to control the aircraft or interpret information.

“A good drone pilot is one that understands the final deliverable, completing the mission first time, every time”
 

There is a list of all the Australian companies that hold Remote Operator Certificates, this means those organisations that potentially have the capacity for drone pilot jobs. At the time of writing this is some 1500 operators. The Remote Operator Certificate List  can be filtered by region and application type.

Obtain the correct licence type for the drone pilot job

When applying for a drone pilot job position, it is expected that you come to the company with the correct licence type for the aircraft being operated. There are a number of different aircraft type used for different purposes. By far, the most versatile aircraft is the multirotor type , this aircraft is a good place to start.

MultirotorFixed WingPowered Lift
Photography, Film and TVYes
Roof and solar inspectionYesYesYes
Real EstateYes
Drones for mappingYesYesYes
Drones for surveyingYesYesYes
Bridge and building inspectionYes
Power line inspectionYesYesYes
Drones in miningYesYesYes
Stockpile assessmentYesYesYes
Vegetation crop mappingYesYesYes
Wildlife tracking and stock inspectionYesYesYes
Aerial weed sprayingYesYesYes
Search and rescueYesYesYes

 

Gain your training from a reputable organisation

These days, the quality of training available for the Remote Pilot Licence varies considerably. The top training organisations will equip you with the skills and knowledge to be an asset to a future employer. There is also a good chance the top training organisations are known by prospective employers.

Being a good drone pilot isn’t all about skills on sticks, there are many other facets of a drone pilot that are important to a company. Having a responsible drone pilot who follows company procedures protects the company. Ultimately the company is responsible for any incidents that occur.

“A good drone pilot is one that follows company procedures and manufacturer recommendations”
 

Some considerations or questions to ask when researching where to conduct your Remote Pilot Licence:

  • Who will be your drone instructor
  • What weight category will your licence be
  • What support is available after training
  • What aircraft models are used during training
  • How long has the training organisation been in business
  • Is training conducted online or face to face

 

Give yourself the best chance to gain that drone pilot job

Consider the employer, employing people is not an easy task and this obviously extends to drone pilot jobs.

  • Gain your initial Remote Pilot Licence with an organisation that understand both the technical and non-technical skills required to become an asset as a drone pilot.
  • Once equipped with your Remote Pilot Licence, consider utilising the excluded category to gain some experience in low-risk areas.
  • Consider upskilling yourself by enrolling in additional courses, such as the aerial survey training provided by Remote Results. 

Aviassist is a Civil Aviation Safety Authority certified company specialising in drone training and dedicated to providing aviation expertise to Australian Business. About Aviassist

Prince Harry and Princess Meghan have arrived in Australia and Invictus Games commences in Sydney this week. Temporary restricted areas have been established for the event limiting drone operations within the Sydney region for the duration of the event.

The Invictus Games is the brainchild of Prince Harry and sees wounded veterans compete in a variety of events. The Sydney games sees 500 competitors from 18 countries compete in 11 medal events. Like other large events, the Invictus games has seen the establishment of Temporary Restricted Areas to limit drone operations to only those approved by the controlling authority, New South Wales Police.

The Temporary Restricted Areas (TRAs) only apply to remote aircraft and do not affect piloted aircraft.  The TRAs apply between the 18th and 28th of October and details have been published through an Aeronautical Information Circular H33/18 . New South Wales police will allow those holding a Remote Operator Certificate and approval to operate in the airspace during the Invictus Games. Remote aircraft operated in the excluded category or recreationally are not able to gain approval to operate within the TRAs. Unlike other TRAs, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority has added the Invictus Games TRA’s to the “Can I fly their app” helping drone users identify the affected areas. Professional drone operators utilising an electronic flight bag such as Avplan EFB will also note the inclusion of the temporary restricted areas.

Piloted aircraft have not remained untouched, with a visit by the royals to the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Dubbo resulting in the airport being closed to all traffic except scheduled airline and emergency flights.

During the commonwealth games in Brisbane this year a drone was “shot down” (Commonwealth Games temporary restricted area results in police shooting down drone) by Queensland police after flying near the temporary restricted areas associated with the event. Flights within Restricted areas, without approval, can be subject to fines in excess of $4000 if prosecuted.

Most people who operate drones professionally in Australia know that commercial operations can exist in either the licensed category or excluded category. What is less understood is that the liability profile, including who holds the liability may differ between the two categories.

Licensed Vs Excluded category drone operations

The benchmark for commercial drone operations is undoubtedly fully licensed operations. Being fully licensed means the Remote Pilot holds a Remote Pilot Licence (RePL) and the company holds a Remote Operator Certificate (ReOC). When operating in the licensed category, the company is deemed the operator and they appoint a Chief Remote Pilot.

Whilst legislation generally protects employees from liability, a peculiar situation may arise under the Excluded Category where the pilot in command may find themselves joined to a legal proceeding by virtue of the fact that the Excluded Category is an individual operation and not one strictly attached to their employer.

There are perceived benefits to operating Excluded Category drone operations. For example, Excluded Category drone operations are less administratively burdensome, not requiring flight authorisations and job safety assessments. Excluded Category drone operations appear less costly with pilots not requiring licensing and the company not requiring to apply for and maintain a Remote Operator Certificate. Excluded Category drone operations are also easier to commence, currently only requiring completion of an online notification at the CASA website five days in advance of the first job.

Licensed commercial drone operations provide the greatest flexibility in terms of aircraft operating types and locations, as well as facilitates permissions, approvals and exemptions otherwise not available to the excluded category. Notwithstanding the benefits, some entities are choosing to operate in the excluded category, accepting the categories limitations, conducting commercial drone operations with various levels of compliance and success.

Excluded Category pilot liability

Excluded Category drone operations have some very significant drawbacks. The biggest drawback, for all but the smallest operators, relates not to the operator, but to the individual operating the aircraft.

As an Excluded Category drone operation, the pilot in command is, from a legal perspective, the operator of the aircraft. Due to the way in which the commonwealth government holds jurisdiction over drones, this opens the door to potentially unlimited liability to be placed upon the pilot, rather than the pilot’s employer. In short, by virtue of the definition of aircraft in the Civil Aviation Act, incidentally including drones, several pieces of ancillary regulation originally intended for manned aviation apply to drone operations.

Of potentially most significance are the Commonwealth and state legislative regimes relating to ground damage by aircraft. Under the Commonwealth Damage by Aircraft Act ‘the owner and operator of an aircraft are jointly and severally liable for bodily injury or property damage caused by an aircraft accident without proof of intention, negligence or other cause of action.

In essence, this legislation sets up a system where someone will always be liable, in the case of excluded operations, the pilot is included, potentially to an unlimited amount. This liability stands if there is a loss to a third party, regardless of the fault or otherwise of the liable party (read pilot).

Due to the fact drones commonly utilised in the Excluded Category are usually at the lower end of the market it is foreseeable that at some point an issue will be encountered. How a Remote Pilot prepares for and handles the situation will dictate exposure to third parties. A Remote Pilot trained by a quality organisation would usually expect things to go wrong and have a plan for if and when abnormal operations occur.

Drones a business critical item

Drones have become business critical and whilst operations remain safe everyone can continue to enjoy the benefits of this valuable tool. The above does not mean that Excluded Category drone operations are useless or that it shouldn’t be used for commercial purposes, simply that employees and employers should consider the pros and cons carefully prior to deciding not to become certified and licensed. Particularly given the now relative ease and low cost in obtaining a Remote Pilot Licence and Remote Operator Certificate. Training is also available for the issue of individual public liability insurance for those that choose to operate Excluded Category drone operations.

The benefits of the Excluded Category are often superficial, with company authorisation, safety assessments, and some form of training arguably required in order to comply with safe work practices. Everyone’s situation is different, as to is the way in which liability will attach in the particular circumstance.

News surfaced this week of Queensland Police shooting down a drone operating close to a temporary restricted area near a Commonwealth games venue. With the Opening Ceremony for the XXI Commonwealth games on the Gold Coast due to commence in under a week, efforts to keep the 6,600 athletes and the expected tens of thousands of spectators safe, are in full swing.

In a joint effort, the Queensland Police have joint forces with the Australian Federal Police and Australian Border Security to crack down on the illegal use of drones in and around the 15 plus locations throughout Queensland before and during the Commonwealth games. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority along with Airservices Australia have activated Temporary Restricted Areas to aid law enforcement agencies in policing these locations.

Similar to speeding offences on the highway, operating a drone without approval in restricted airspace, is a strict liability offence. This means that the offence can be prosecuted without the person even knowing the offence was committed. Naivety is no excuse when it comes to strict liability.

Professional drone operators who have undertaken training with a reputable drone training provider should understand the significance of restricted areas and how to obtain approval to operate within that airspace. Those that do not hold a Remote Pilot Licence and Remote Operator Certificate are unable to gain approval for operations within restricted airspace and must avoid the area. Operations in and around Temporary Restricted Areas come with unique challenges including identifying if, and when they exist.

The main difference associated with Temporary Restricted Areas (TRA’s) is that due to their temporary nature, they do not appear on many charts and maps. The rules regarding operating within TRA’s remains the same as permanent Restricted Areas. Information regarding the activation times, heights of restriction and type of operation can be found in NOTAM’s and Advisory Circulars.

Certified Electronic Flight Bag’s such as Avplan-EFB highlight temporary restricted areas both active and planned. The top image is a screen shot from Avplan-EFB a certified electronic flight bag. The image clearly shows the active Temporary Restricted Area’s highlighted in red and future TRA’s in yellow with the relevant NOTAM (activation message) information.

avplan shows temporary restricted areas

The bottom image is from CASA’s “Can I Fly There” app. Amongst other apps it makes no mention as to any temporary restricted areas (CASA’s “ can I fly there ” app not for professionals)

CASA can i fly there app does not show temporary restricted areas

 

Temporary Restricted areas are not a new thing and common in Australia. The key to identifying and/or operating in these areas, professional drone training from an organisation intimate with the Australian airspace system.

Starting and growing a business can be a challenging prospect. For Daniel Williams, a young Melbournian, visiting the World of Drones expo was key decision to grow a business out of his passion for drones. The World of Drones Congress is an international forum for everyone including business, government, investors and enthusiasts of drones, held annually in Brisbane. Aviassist, a commercial drone training company, exhibiting at the World of Drones congress offered Daniel a drone scholarship to a gain a Remote Pilot Licence (RePL). With stronger and clearer rules in place for operating drones for increased safety, this was a valuable development for the future of his involvement with drones.

Since Aviassist launched in 2008 there has been a strong commitment to ensuring aviation activities are made safe, straight forward and stress-free, part of this commitment is community participation. One avenue is the provision of an annual drone scholarship to young Australians. Aviassist looks for those passionate about making a positive contribution to Australian business utilising drone technology. Daniel was chosen in 2017 as he was highly ambitious and motivated to succeed. Daniel was already operating a business in the excluded category, a category which does not require formal training or licensing. The restrictions in place for the excluded category are crippling in a business sense, limitations on where and what you can fly significantly limits the chance of being successful. Being licensed now means Daniel can fly better quality sensors, in more places with a level of protection expected by large clients.

Following the completion of the training Aviassist provided mentorship for Daniel’s business DJ Aerial Photography to gain a Remote Operator Certificate (ReOC). Since completing the scholarship, Daniel’s business has incorporated larger aircraft capable of carrying multiple sensors to give a level of detail not previously available for his clients. Flights have been conducted at night and new sensors such as Forward Looking Near Infrared (FLIR) offer new income streams for his business. The team at Aviassist look forward to following his success.

drone scholarship

 

On Tuesday, Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s Director of Aviation Safety, Shane Carmody, signed an instrument relating to drone operations aimed to significantly reduce the chance of drone operations interfering with piloted aircraft.

Today we announced new stronger and clearer rules for flying drones to help drone flyers operation with increased safety.

The new rules will better protect people and aircraft from drones and have been developed in response to community concerns about drone safety and the rapid increase in the number of drone operators.

They do not apply to all drone flyers. If you hold a remote pilot license (RePL) and operation according to a remotely piloted aircraft operator certificate (ReOC) or have an authorisation from CASA, you will be excempt from the new measures. Model aircraft operating under CASA approvals are also excempt.

The new rules essentially exclude unlicensed drone pilots from operating within 5.5km (3 nautical miles) of all but the smallest airports. Unlicensed drone operations are now prohibited in the vicinity of every airport whilst there are piloted aircraft operating. With the large quantity of flight training and other light aircraft operations that are conducted at secondary and regional airports around the country, the consequence of the rules is that there are now large areas throughout the country that are, effective immediately, no-go areas.

  • Unlicensed drone operations not to be conducted within 3 nautical miles of controlled airports
  • Unlicensed drone operations not to be conducted within 3 nautical miles of an uncontrolled airport where piloted aircraf are operatiing
  • Unlicensed drone operations not to be conducted above 400 feet above ground level
  • Unlicensed drone operations to avoid areas where emergency services are operating
  • Unlicensed drone operations to remain 30 metres from people

The move certainly has clear aviation safety positives; under the prior rules drone pilots holding no aviation-specific training were able to operate in close vicinity to piloted aircraft. Whilst there were certainly very good operators who took the time to upskill, there has unfortunately been a significant number of operators who have not. The new rules appear to be a clear message from CASA, if you want to operate near piloted aircraft you need to be professionally trained and suitably qualified.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has been under increasing pressure as the senate enquiry into the regulatory requirements that impact the safe us of drones continues.  The new rules do not apply to fully certified operators, presumably due to the increased situational awareness and aviation knowledge gained through the training for a remote pilot licence such as the courses offered by Aviassist.

For those operators presently operating in the excluded category however it appears the restrictions will apply. There is an exclusion from the directive for persons who hold an ‘authorisation’ or ‘exemption’ from CASA. The Civil Aviation Act 1988 (Cth) dictates that exemptions must be in the form of a legislative instrument, no such instrument has been issued by CASA in relation to the excluded category. Presumably, the term ‘authorisation’ in the instrument refers to a ‘civil aviation authorisation’ which, according to the definition in the Act, appears to relate to something issued by CASA to an individual or entity such as a licence or certificate. CASA does not issue such documents to excluded category operators. Indeed by the very definition, excluded category operators are excluded from requiring authorisation.

Obviously, the new rules will have a significant impact on the many thousand excluded category operators however given the relative ease in obtaining quality remote pilot training and certification, smart operators see this change as a further reason to differentiate and grasp the opportunity to move to a higher standard.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) should be highly commended on releasing the “ can I fly there ” app removing the need for interpretation in where unlicensed drone pilots can fly. The same rules don’t apply for certified drone operators and use of the “ can I fly there ” app will sell your business short.

The ” can i fly there ” app is based around the excluded drone category rules. Since the release, there has been confusion on exactly where certified operators can operate  flying under a Remote Operators Certificate. For example.

A client calls to conduct a job within Sydney harbour, checking the “ can if fly there ” app a “no fly zone appears for a restricted area.

restricted airspace

Restricted airspace, active or not, is shown as a no fly zone in the CASA “ can I fly there ” app. Certified operators should be trained to the level of  being able to understand if restricted airspace is active or not. If the restricted airspace is not active, the airspace reverts to uncontrolled. If the restricted airspace is active, such as Sydney harbour, approval can easily be gained to operate in the area

The procedures in the operations manual of a Remote Operator state how flights should be conducted around an uncontrolled aerodrome. The restrictions in the CASA “ can I fly there ” app, with regard to heliports with an instrument approach do not apply, nor do the additional height restrictions or extra distance applied to departure and approach.

excluded category

The weather information in the CASA “ can I fly there ” app is uncertified at best, 16 gusting 26knots 5km away on inspection shows a wind of 11knots well within limits of most aircraft when conditions were most certainly unsuitable.

weather for drone operations

metar

Professional operators should invest in an electronic flight bag such as Avplan (which app should I use) Any good training organisation has spent considerable time explaining the methods to ensure drone operations are safe in all areas. Relevant maps/charts and frequencies explained and support provided in the background for those trickier situations.

While it may be tempting to use CASA’s free app, the investment of less than $100 for a good electronic flight bag will pay dividends to your business, training by a professional organisation will also pay dividends to your business.

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