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New RPAS regulations open up skies despite safety concerns

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CASA has allowed more people to operate RPAS commercially, but many foresee accidents on the horizon.

 

As of 29 September 2016, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) put into the force a deregulation that will allow more people to operate sub-2kg remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS or drones) without the previously mandatory training.

The government body’s move aims to keep pace with the rapid increase in the innovative technology and uses of small RPAS for commercial purposes. However, many industry professionals who use drones have spoken out with concerns that many accidents could result from the deregulation.

As part of the new changes, people and organisations wanting to fly commercial drones with a maximum take-off weight of less than two kilograms no longer need to apply for a certificate and licence from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

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This means very small commercial drone operators can avoid the requirement to pay about $1400 in regulatory fees, as well as the need to develop manuals and other documentation. To ensure at least some safety, there is also a requirement to complete an online notification process so CASA has the details of all under two kilogram commercial drone operators. In addition, penalties of up to $9,000 can be issued by CASA for breaches of the regulations.

However, private RPAS firm Australian UAV expressed their concerns on the matter, saying their needs to be some stipulation on training. Their director Andrew Chapman met with the office of Darren Chester to advise on CASA amendments to the UAV legislation expressing his concerns. The company’s statement on the matter is that “accidents are likely to result from these amendments unless at least some basic training requirement is maintained, and that is not currently the case.”

Specialist aviation lawyer, Joseph Wheeler of Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, also said the move towards deregulation would significantly increase the risk of a crash between a drone and a plane or a helicopter.

“If we had greater safeguards to enforce the regulations when things go wrong, that would go a long way towards ensuring with the injuries that inevitably would happen, the ability for people on the ground who are injured to access compensation,” he said.

“At the moment, someone could be injured by a drone on the ground with no ability to identify the owner of that drone.

“They have absolutely no capacity to access any insurance or access any compensation for their losses.”

The new regulations state that anyone who wants to operate an under two kilogram commercial drone outside the standard operating conditions must apply to CASA for a remotely piloted aircraft operator’s certificate and a remote pilot licence.

The new rules also introduce a category for landholders which means drones up 25 kilograms can be operated without the need for CASA approvals.

 

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