AAUS’ objective is to ensure a safe and prosperous unmanned systems industry in Australia. As the owner of a remotely piloted aircraft (or drone) you are now part of a growing professional community.
AAUS has developed a code of conduct that describes the high-level policies and principles for the responsible commercial operation of a remotely piloted aircraft. You can read them here (link coming soon). We encourage all of our members to adopt the code of conduct and help set a high standard of safety and professionalism across the industry.
On this page you will find useful information on:
Finding A Reputable Operator
AAUS promotes a safe and professional industry. When contracting the services of RPAS/drone operators there are certain things to watch out for:
- Contracting the services of a RPAS/drone operator who is not compliant with the safety regulations can expose your business to unnecessary risk.
- The majority of RPAS operators have significant restrictions on where and how they operate. These include not operating within 30m of a person, not over people or property, not above 400ft, not beyond visual range, and not within 5.5km of a controlled aerodrome. If your operation requires any of the above, then the operator will generally require approval from CASA. Ask the operator to show you their Remotely Piloted Aircraft Operator Certificate (ReOC) issued by CASA. This document should include a list of conditions that the drone operator must comply with. In some cases, the operator will need to apply to CASA for approval to undertake particular jobs. Most people operating a drone will need to have a Remote Pilot Licence (RePL). More information on the regulations that apply to RPAS/drones can be found below.
- Some operators do not have insurance or have inadequate insurance coverage. Always ask to see a copy of their certificate of insurance.
- We recommend only contracting the services of experienced and professional operators.
- We recommend searching our directory of members for reputable drone service providers.
Your Guide to the Regulations
Do you fly a drone? If yes, then you need to be aware of the safety regulations applicable to you.
There are regulations and standards in place to ensure the safe and efficient flow of vehicles on our roads. This includes requirements for drivers to be appropriately skilled and licensed, for vehicles to be designed with certain safety features and maintained in a roadworthy condition, and for all road users to obey a common set of road rules (e.g., speed limits, giving way, not driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, etc.). A similar set of rules and regulations are in place to ensure the safety and efficiency of aircraft operations. These apply to drones too, just like any other aircraft. These regulations are in place to ensure not only your safety but the safety of the general public on the ground and of other aircraft.
Applicable Rules and Regulations
The safety regulations applicable to civil aircraft in Australia are contained in:
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is the organisation empowered by the Civil Aviation Act to develop and enforce these safety rules and regulations. More information on CASA can be found on their website:
Particular sections of the CAR 1988 and CASR 1998 regulations apply to Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) or drones. There are requirements on where, what, who, and how you can operate your drone. These are contained in CASR 1998 Part 101. These regulations are applicable to commercial drone operators and to people who use their drone solely for fun or recreational purposes. CASR 1998 101.G contains regulations applicable to those people who operate their drone for purely sport or recreational purposes. CASR 1998 101.F contains regulations applicable to those people who operate their drone for any other purpose.
Most people find the regulations difficult to read and interpret. So CASA have released some guidance materials that help to explain the regulations in plain English. The advisory circulars can be found here. CASA have also released an easy to use eLearning guide on the new regulations:
CASA also have a useful webpage that provides general information on the regulations and address many of the frequently asked questions:
Changes to the Regulations
Drone technology, and the ways we use them, is constantly evolving. So too are the safety regulations applicable to them. Amended regulations will come into force late September of 2016. To help members navigate these new regulations, and determine what it means for you on your operations, AAUS have released the following “industry guidance” document.
CASA have also released an easy to use eLearning guide on the new regulations:
Keeping Everyone Safe
Know the regulations before you fly and always check the conditions on the day. Even if the regulations permit you to fly, it doesn’t mean you should. Before you fly or “LEAPE” , just ask yourself the following questions:
Location – Am I allowed to fly here?
Environment – Are the conditions safe to fly in?
Aircraft – Is my drone in a condition safe for flight?
Pilot – Am I qualified and in a condition to confidently fly?
Emergency – What can go wrong and what will I do if it does?
We also recommend you consider our guidelines on how to fly neighbourly and how to manage potential concerns around privacy.
Where can I fly?
There are regulations governing where you can operate your drone. These restrictions are in place to ensure your drone doesn’t pose a collision hazard to other aircraft or to a hazard to people and property on the ground.
The amended regulations (see above) establish a set of standard operating restrictions that apply to all drone operations (unless otherwise approved by CASA). The standard restrictions governing where you can fly include:
- Your drone must not be operated within 30 m of people or directly overhead people and property
- Your drone must not be operated above 400 feet (120 m) above the ground
- You cannot operate your drone within 5.5 km of a controlled aerodrome or in the controlled airspace
A list of all of the restrictions that apply to your drone operation can be found in our guide to the new regulations (download here). A simple app is being developed to help you identify where you can safely fly your drone. In the interim, you can use the maps released by Airservices Australia to identify where controlled aerodromes are, and the 5.5km boundary which you must remain outside of:
Remember, the regulations prohibit you from operating your drone in a hazardous manner, regardless of where you fly. So if in doubt, don’t fly.
Managing Concerns Over Privacy
Privacy is a very legitimate concern, and one that is not specific to just the operation of drones. Public concern over privacy needs to be proactively addressed by the industry, in a same manner as we would manage any concerns relating to safety.
Privacy regulations in Australia have been described as “piecemeal” and vary between states. Current Commonwealth privacy regulation (Privacy Act 1988) does not apply to small businesses (with an annual turnover of < AUD$3M). With the vast majority of the drone industry comprising small to medium enterprises; the current Act is largely not applicable to the industry.
AAUS wants to ensure public concerns relating to privacy are addressed without unnecessary impost on the industry. AAUS has been proactive in its approach to the reform of Privacy Regulations in Australia. AAUS has worked in close partnership with Liberty Victoria to develop a comprehensive set of recommendations on privacy law reform. The report, titled “The Use of Drones in Australia : An Agenda for Reform”, is intended to stimulate a balanced debate and represents a unified and proactive first step in the reform of privacy regulation in Australia. View the full report here.
Managing Privacy Concerns
In the absence of comprehensive regulation, it really comes down to the individual operator to develop a framework of policies and practices to manage potential privacy issues associated with their operations. Operators should be proactive in how they manage matters relating to privacy, which includes the collection, storage and dissemination of personal information (whether intentional or not). Operators should also be aware that there is particular public sensitivity to the use of drones near certain areas or events (e.g., in residential areas, over beaches, etc.).
AAUS is working to develop a set of general guidelines to assist operators to manage privacy concerns. If you would like to be involved, then please contact us.
As a responsible drone operator, you should be aware of, and proactively seek to minimise, the potential impact you have on the people in the surrounding area. These impacts can include disruption due to noise and access to public areas. Operators should plan their operations to minimise the potential for noise, particularly when flying early in the morning or on weekends, and when near residential areas. Steps to reduce noise can include minimising the duration and frequency of flights, and operating as far away from potential impacted people as possible. Whilst safety remains priority, operators should also minimise any restrictions that would prevent members of the public from using and enjoying a public space.
AAUS is working to develop a set of general guidelines on how to “fly neighbourly”. If you would like to be involved, then please contact us.
Export Control Laws
- Export products?
- Conduct demonstrations, exhibit your products or services, or present at conferences overseas?
- Have an international partner organisation or collaborator?
Then you need to be aware of your responsibilities under the Defence Trade Controls Act 2012. There can be substantial penalties if you are found to be in breech of the Act.
The Act requires a permit for the supply of tangible or intangible goods listed on the Defence and Strategic Goods List (DSGL) to any person located outside of Australia. This includes the transmission of information on goods on the DSGL via email and other electronic means. Unmanned systems and many of their component technologies (e.g., some sensors), and any information relating to them, are included on the DSGL. The DSGL is divided into two parts:
Part 1 – defence and related goods and technologies (including software) that are designed and adapted for use by the armed forces, and non-military goods that are inherently lethal, incapacitating or destructive;
Part 2 – dual-use goods and technologies (i.e. tangible and intangible items) developed to meet legitimate commercial needs, but could be used as military components or to develop or produce military systems or weapons of mass destruction.
Part 2 of the DSGL is further split into the following ten categories:
If you believe aspects of your business activities (current or proposed) fall within one of the above categories, you are strongly encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your project and the requirements applicable to you. Alternatively, the Online DSGL Tool is a great starting point to self-assess whether your project may contain controlled technology.
The Defence Export Controls Office (DECO) has advised that permit applications can take between 15-35 working days to process. Having your application in as soon as possible will ensure that you don’t experience a gap between the DTC Act offence provisions coming into force and receiving a permit.
For further assistance and guidance on the application of the Defence Trade Controls Act, please visit the DECO website:
Getting the Right Insurance
AAUS works closely with a number of insurance providers and we encourage operators to discuss your insurance needs with a number of them. QBE is the largest Insurer active with drone coverage in Australia. AB Phillips have recently set up insurance cover for Drone operators with a focus on Excluded category operators. AAUS Members get discounted insurance with both of these insurance providers.
The Australian Radio Communications Agency (ACMA) manages radio devices and spectrum allocation in Australia.
When buying a radio transmitter online or from overseas, it is important to make sure that it is compliant with the conditions stipulated by ACMA for that particular class of transmitter. Operators must be particularly careful when selecting and using high gain antennas that they remain within the effective isotropic radiated power conditions of the licence for their particular class of radio transmitter. Most commercial drones make use low interference potential devices (LIPD) for telemetry and payload links. These devices must meet the requirements of the LIPD class licence (see here).
There can be substantial penalties for those individuals caught in breach of the regulations. More information: