Drone Registration And Accreditation


Gary Rowe

| September 20 2019

Drone Registration And Accreditation

Quick Tip| Reading Time: 3 Min


We recently reported new aviation safety laws had been passed to control the use of drones.

In this Quick Tip, we explain how these new laws will be introduced for recreational and commercial use.

Photo of white drone flying against a gorgeous blue sky

For the purpose of this article we will use the term “drone” for both remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) and model aircraft, including rotary and fixed wing.

Why Are There New Drone Laws?

It's estimated that there are more than 150,000 drones weighing more than 250g operated recreationally in Australia, and the market is growing at about 15,000 per year.

The dramatic increase in the number of uncontrolled drones world-wide has resulted in numerous cases of reckless drone operation causing major disruption, injury and loss.

Drone flying near run way

In Australia, unsafe use of drones has caused suspension of aerial firefighting activity at times putting people and property at risk.

International examples include a drone flown near Gatwick Airport (UK) in December 2018 which caused cancellation of around 1,000 flights and delays for over 140,000 passengers.


Registering Drones and Operators

Authorities want the ability to identify drones being operated unsafely and quickly link them to their respective operators.

Technology already exists to electronically identify airborne drones by serial number, their position and the location of the drone operator on the ground, but the new registration system is needed to link the drones to the operators.


What Types Of Drones Need To Be Registered?

The new aviation laws will require all drones heavier than 250g to be registered, unless your drone is exclusively flown indoors. Model aircraft flown at a CASA approved model airfields are also exempt.

Drones used for commercial purposes

People who operate drones for commercial purposes will need to register all drones, irrespective of type or weight.  Commercial purposes can mean your business is paid for flying drones or flying drones is a part of your business.

Registration of drones will require annual renewal.


Drone Operator Competency

All drone operators will need to hold a new certificate of competency, unless you already hold a commercial Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) operator’s licence.

If you're a recreational drone user, you'll need to pass an online test to ensure basic knowledge and competency of drone laws.


Drone Categories

The new legislation extends the definition of drones, from current Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and model aircraft over 250g in weight, and introduces the five categories below:

  1. Micro RPA gross weight 100g or less.
  2. Very small RPA gross weight 100g to less than 2kg.
  3. Small RPA gross weight 2kg to less than 25kg.
  4. Medium RPA gross weight 25kg to less than 150kg.
  5. Large RPA gross weight more than 150kg.


Commercial Operation

Previous laws only required drones over 150kg to be registered and their operators licensed.

Now, medium and large drones (i.e. above 25kg) whether operated commercially or privately will require an RPA Licence (RePL) and RPA Operator’s Certificate (ReOC).

Small, very small and micro drones (i.e. less than 25kg) may be operated in simple commercial operations as excluded RPA without RePl or ReOC if they follow the standard operating rules, below:

  1. RPA operated in line of sight.
  2. Below 400ft above ground level (AGL) by day.
  3. Not within 30m of any person not associated with operation.
  4. Not over a populous area or prohibited area.
  5. Not within 5km of a controlled airport.
  6. Not over any incident scene (eg fire, accident, emergency) without approval of person in charge of the incident.
  7. Only allowed to control one RPA at a time.


Strict Liability and Criminal Law

Strict liability will apply to the new drone laws, which CASA believes are reasonable, necessary and proportionate to ensure aviation safety.

Owners and operators of drones have general and specific aviation safety obligations and it is important that all drone operators are aware of these requirements and comply with them.

The Civil Aviation Safety Amendment (Remotely Piloted Aircraft and Model Aircraft – Registration and Accreditation) Regulations 2019 will require that (among other things):

  • Drones over 250g must be registered, unless flown exclusively indoors or at CASA approved model aircraft fields.
  • Accredited operators to pass an online training course, unless they already hold an RPA licence. E.g. licensed commercial operator.
  • Be at least 16 years of age, or supervised by an accredited person over 18 years.
  • Drone registration to be renewed annually and accreditation every three years.


Need help or advice about the drone registration and accreditation or other important safety topics?

Take away the guesswork and talk to one of our expert Safety Consultants. Call +61 (03) 8544 4300 or enquire online

Get helpful articles like this one emailed to you for free each month.

Subscribe to our newsletter below!