Remote Control Aerial Photography Rules and Regulations

I thought I would begin writing a post about some of the legalities when flying remote control helicopters/planes in a commercial environment (hire and reward demonstrations, training, R&D, flying for company internal purposes, etc.) I was sent a link recently from a friend showing an ad on Gumtree for remote control aerial photography for $35.00 per shot and decided to do a little bit of research on the company to see if at all there operators had a CPL-H (Commercial Pilot License – Helicopter) as they showed the use of hexacopters, to no surprise I could find no record of them being licensed or had completed an OC (Operators Certificate) to conduct business.

The rumours/myths about UAV licensing has been quiet entertaining over the past 12 months as I had heard many different rules regulations and fees, so in today’s post i thought I would supply the necessary information needed to operate a drone, hexacopter, remote control plane or anything you want to call it for (hire and reward demonstrations, training, R&D, flying for company internal purposes, etc.)

Step 1A: Apply for a UAV Controller Certificate application form

In this you MUST hold either a PPL or CPL helicopter or aeroplane license (private or commercial). Many people think that anyone can apply for a OC with no previous experience WRONG.

STEP 1B: Licensing Courses

If you don’t hold a PPL or CPL you must complete at a minimum the ground based theory achieving at least 70% or higher to pass, this can be done with your local flight schools like Attitude Helicopter Training or simply check your local airports website as many training academies are generally located within an airport. The cost of these courses can vary but a PPL license can start from around $5000.00 +.

Step 2: Develop a Business Plan, Operational Use and a Safety Case

In this what CASA are asking for is for you or your company to go ahead a develop a plan of what you would like to do, the markets you wish to enter i.e. Realestate etc read up on the rules and regulations of doing this. Then create a safety plan/case of the what you will/can do In the case of an accident or potential accident and from there ask yourself if this is the path you want to go down. If so continue reading below, if not here is a cool Youtube video to distract you from your ideal job!

Step 3:  Determining What Aircraft You Wish To Fly & Manufacturer Training

From this CASA want you to work out what craft you are going to fly, it may be drones or aeroplanes or it may be both depending on the job requirements. Included in this you must seek training from the manufacturer and this can very difficult for a variety of reasons, the manufacturer doesn’t offer this service or is not qualified to do this, It maybe the manufacturer is in another country etc for this you can fill in this form and a UAS representative will discuss further options with you.

Step 4: Undertake PPL or CPL (H or A) Exam

This is the expensive part, CASA require you to Undertake exams for the minimum required license Private Pilots Licence (PPL), either Aeroplane or Helicopter and this depends on what you are going to fly weather it be aeroplane or helicopter. Here is a little more detail on the PPL exam and some sample questions.

Step 5: Obtain a Operators Certificate

This step cannot be done without step 4, the requirements for this are found deep within the CASA website and refer to “Paragraph 101.295 in CASR Part 101” which is within this page of the CASA website. Along with these requirements you must complete the UAV Controller Certificate Application Form and email the completed forM to this address.

Step 6: Apply For an Instrument Rating Exam

There are exemptions with this part of the process, if you only going to be flying under “day Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC)”, “Visual Line of Sight (VLOS)” then you can contact the UAS Specialist for an exemption. If you are planning on flying FPV or otherwise known as “First Person View” then this part of the process must be completed without exemption and will incur additional fees.

Step 7: Assessing The Risk of Your Proposed Line of Work

This step is really important and requires quiet a bit of work for CASA to accept your application and may require the assistance of a risk assessment company. Just remember if this step of the process is done poorly or does not meet the CASA requirement you may fail and will have wasted many hours of work and money in the steps leading up to this.

Step 8: Developing a Safety Management System

This step in todays regulations is not required by CASA encourages operators or potential operators to setup this system. This may be of benefit to new employees or if a staff member is uncertain of what to do in certain scenarios. Here is some general information about SMS.

Step 9: Prepare Flight, Maintenance and Operations Manuals

For some help with this you can check this out, keep in mind CASA is currently amending the CAAP to apply directly with UAS. If you need any help preparing these documents you can contact the UAS Specialists.

Step 10: Obtain Public Liability Insurance

WARNING this can be one of the most expensive parts of the hole process of becoming a UAV company and it is highly recommend you check out this search and obtain some estimates of costs before completing the above steps as this will probably scare you off the hole UAV license, so therefore here is another cool Youtube video to distract you, enjoy!.

Step 11: Arrange a Pre -Application Interview

For this step go to this link

Step 12: Last Step (UAV Application Costs)

Again see the bottom of this CASA page to see the variety of costs involved in obtaining a UAV license again these can be vary and be substantial.

Step 13: Fines & Penalties For Flying Unlicensed 

There are many rumours of the fines for illegal UAV flying and although there are not a lot of cases it is estimated fines can be anywhere up to $45000.00 plus confiscation of all equipment  on the spot.

I hope this post helps you in making the right decision towards you or your companies future and we wish you all the best in your future endeavours stay safe.