July 5, 2019

This week CASA announced that the first CASA-approved drone safety app connected to the RPAS digital platform was available for all recreational and commercial drone operator to download and use.  In the few days following the announcement, AAUS fielded a number of calls from its membership who were concerned that the provider of the first drone safety app (Wing) had received an uncompetitive advantage over Australian Industry.

We contacted Luke Gumley (LG), Branch Manager RPAS, CASA to ask some questions on behalf of industry.  Luke responded to our approach very quickly and we are happy to provide this to our membership.  He also followed up with a phone call and discussed some of the initial issues with the first drone app that had been resolved quickly (including correct depiction of 3nm ranges from aerodromes).

AAUS is appreciative of Luke’s time in the interest of expediting the opportunity for industry to engage in the development of innovative and enabling drone safety apps for the domestic RPAS community.  We believe that this is a landmark moment for the Australian drone industry and there will be considerable benefits to safety for all of the aviation as future drone apps utilising the RPAS digital platform roll out.

The full list of AAUS questions and Luke’s responses are listed below:

AAUS:  Were WING given privileged treatment with early access to the platform?  If so, what was the rationale?

LG: Wing have not been provided any preferential treatment.  CASA conducted a competitive procurement process in accordance with Australian Government procurement rules.  CASA approached several suppliers which included Australian-based suppliers to respond to CASA’s approach to market.  A copy of the approach to market documentation is attached here.  The panel assessed Wing as the preferred supplier.  The unweighted evaluation criteria as set out in the approach to market documentation were as follows:

    1. Extent to which the response met CASA’s requirements set out in the approach to market;
    2. The Respondent’s demonstrated capability and capacity to provide the requirement; and
    3. Whole of life costs to be incurred by CASA, with considerations including both the quoted price and any costs that CASA would incur as a result of accepting the response.

Statement of Requirement paragraph 2.7 states that “In order to showcase the capability of the Platform and to show a third-party app can successfully interact with the Platform as intended, Suppliers will be required to connect a functioning third-party app for acceptance testing purposes, that meets the documented approval process.  The app may be the Supplier’s or that of another third-party.  This will also allow testing and demonstration of the documented approval and onboarding process.”

AAUS: There appears to be limited transparency or consultation around the CASA’s processes in relation to approved drone safety apps.  Can you comment?

LG: CASA has provided an email response to interested developers that contacted CASA on or before 1 July.  Further information is also available at www.casa.gov.au/droneapp  CASA will provide more detailed information in the coming months about opening the Platform to additional developers.  In the interim, CASA is ensuring the Platform is operating as intended before inviting application.  CASA believes this is a reasonable and mature roll-out methodology.

AAUS: What is the process for interested parties accessing the digital platform to develop drone safety apps? 

LG: CASA is in the process of finalising the onboarding process for interested developers.  Around 8 developers have so far contacted CASA requesting information about joining the Platform.  CASA has responded to those that have contacted CASA to advise that we are working to open applications to developers in the coming months. A copy of that email is attached.  Information is also available on CASA’s website www.casa.gov.au/droneapp  It is our intention to publish more detailed information on the application process in due course.

AAUS: Some interested developers have reported to AAUS that CASA have indicated that they wont be able to access documentation for the digital platform for a number of months (Sep / Oct timeframe).  Is this true?

LG: As explained in CASA’s email to the developers (attached), in building the Platform, Wing was required to connect an app to it to demonstrate the Platform’s functionality and how a third-party would connect to the Platform while meeting the onboarding process. Wing used its own developed app for that purpose. On this basis, CASA was able to be satisfied of the apps functionality interacting with the Platform, and approved its use of it. CASA however considers the further onboarding trial will verify the effectiveness of CASA’s app approval and onboarding process. As indicated in the attached email, CASA is working towards inviting interested developers to apply to join the Platform from September.  CASA encourages developers to check www.casa.gov.au/droneapp regularly for updated information.

The launch of the digital Platform is an innovative way to allow industry and developers to connect their apps to a standardised architecture, and in an environment that is approved by CASA.  This will allow industry and developers to tailor their apps to RPA operators, and provide more choice to operators.  The Platform provides a pathway to future capabilities, including:

    • integration with our proposed drone registration system
    • allowing licensed operators to submit flight authorisation requests
    • automating approvals to operate within 3nm of a controlled aerodrome, where safe to do so
    • providing the building blocks for a future RPA traffic management system