by George Nott

CASA consults ahead of mandatory drone registration scheme

Jan 30, 2019
Digital TransformationGovernment

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is seeking views from the drone pilot community on its proposed remotely piloted aircraft (RPA)registration scheme.

CASA intends to introduce mandatory RPA pilot registration and accreditation from July this year, but is first consulting with the community “to ensure the rules will work in practice as they are intended,” it said.

The scheme will apply to all commercial RPA operators, and those flying drones weighing more than 250 grams recreationally.

Accreditation will be free and awarded after an individual has completed an online course, which CASA described as “basically, watch a video and answer a quiz on the drone rules that apply to you”.

Registration costs have yet to be decided, but will depend on whether drones are flown for fun or profit. For recreational pilots it is expected to be around $20.

“The aim of the proposed new rules is to increase safety through increased compliance with the requirements: ensuring everyone who flies a drone over 250 grams knows the rules; helping CASA to target the right safety information to the users who need it most; [and] making it easier for authorities to identify when someone is breaking the rules,” CASA said.

CASA has been considering a mandatory register of drone pilots for some time. In August 2017 it published a discussion paper which drew mixed opinions from pilots and the public.

Most people who responded supported some form of pilot registration. However, while 36 per cent of non-pilots wanted registration of all RPA operators, around half of recreational and commercial pilots preferred a weight based requirement.

All respondents indicated they supported mandatory training and proficiency tests for pilots of large drones, as well as free online training for new pilots.

In May 2017 the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee concluded an inquiry into regulatory requirements and safe use of drones. The committee determined that CASA “should be empowered to track all individual drones, starting with the registration of all drones, regardless of their size or intended use”.

In November last year the Governmentsupported the introduction of a mandatory accreditation and registration system for drones.

Global response

In the US hobbyist drone pilots are required to register their RPAs.

“Even if you’re only flying in your backyard, drones that weigh more than 0.55 pounds must be registered,” the Federal Aviation Administration states.

In New Zealand, there is no legal requirement for drone pilots to be registered to fly, but 10,000 have voluntarily done so on air traffic service provider Airways New Zealand’s drone hub Airshare.

The UK government this month announced that from November this year, it will be a legal requirement for all 250g plus drone operators to register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and complete an online pilot competency test.

The recent disruption to Gatwick airport operations, affecting tens of thousands of passengers in the run up to Christmas, was a stark example of why continued action is required to make sure drones are used safely and securely in the UK,” Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg said.