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Commercial drone laws

Published by Josh Spires on 19 March, 2018, updated on 08 April, 2024.

Commercial drone laws

Straighten up and fly right.

As with recreational drones, commercial drone applications have, excuse the pun, really taken off. Every day it seems a new industry recognises the potential of drone technology to their business and are keen jump on the wave!

Flying commercial drones, however, brings with it a more complex set of rules, regulations and licensing requirements – all of which MUST be met. The penalties for not abiding by them are substantial and we note our own caveat that while we discuss some of these in this article, we encourage those considering commercial drone operation to talk to a professional UAV organisation such as our own – or review the Civil Aviation Safety Authority website

OK, let’s consider some licencing and certification requirements and then move to rules and regulations that apply to these categories.

Licencing and certification

In simple terms, when flying for money or any form of economic gain, you will normally need to be licensed and certified as an operator, or work for a certified operator.  

For clarification, a remote pilot licence or RePL is your individual permission to fly but it does not mean you can operate commercially on your own. If you do hold a RePL, you will need to be employed by someone who holds a certificate to fly. These operators must hold a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) operators certificate, also known as ReOC

While there are some variations, there are two primary categories a commercial drone pilot or operator will work within.

  1. Sub-2kg (‘excluded’ and within standard operating conditions)

If you fly a drone under 2kg for commercial reasons, you can fly your drone under what is called the 'excluded' category. This simply means you'll need to notify CASA before you fly and operate within the standard operating conditions – no licence or certification required.

If, however, you want to fly outside these operating conditions, you will need to be licensed so hold a remote pilot's licence (RePL) and fly with a certified operator to fly commercially.

  1. Over 2kg commercial

In this category if you want to fly a drone commercially, you will  need to be certified and hold the following

  1. An Remote Pilot Licence (RePL)
  2. An RPA Operating Certificate (ReOC) .

Both of these requirements are to be obtained by CASA. For more information on how to obtain these certifications, please see our training services page (hyperlink).

Laws to fly by

As the primary safety body, CASA defines the commercial use of a drone as anything you're doing for hire or reward. For example, if you're a production company strapping a camera to a drone for the purposes of gathering footage, or if you're flying something into the air to test it via a drone, that's considered commercial use.

Like recreational drones, there are some common sense laws and mandatory conditions that apply to operating a commercial drone.

These include flying only in daylight and with a visual line of sight. You must stay below 120 metres and keep more than 30 metres away from other people. You must also be a minimum of 5.5 kilometres from controlled aerodromes and not near emergency situations. If you require to operate under the aforementioned conditions, permissions are required from CASA.

These noted, CASA is endeavouring to lighten laws (without minimising safety) to allow for less restrictive drone use in commercial applications.

For example, private landholders can now carry out a range of activities on their own land without the need for CASA approvals. This includes remotely piloted aircraft up to 25kg, as long as it is not a commercial venture i.e., no money has changed hands.

As we move in to 2018, the reality is this; The desire for drones, both recreational and commercial will continue.  With this increase so will drone laws have to be added, deleted and modified to suit this changing and very dynamic market.

We encourage you to stay up to date with these laws and in addition, always research the area where you want to fly for local regulations.

Happy flying!

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