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Standard operating conditions for Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA)

There are standard operating conditions for Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and penalties for breaching them. Those conditions include:

  • Only fly one RPA at a time [reg 101.238(f) Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 (Cth)];
  • Do not fly into cloud/fog without approval from air traffic control and training;
  • Only fly during the day [reg 101.095];
  • Keep an RPA within visual line-of sight [reg 101.073; 101.095];
  • Do not fly an RPA higher than 120 metres (400ft) above ground level (exceptions apply) [regulations 101.085; 101.070; 101.030; 101.250];
  • Keep an RPA at least 30 metres away from other people (exceptions apply)[ reg 101.245];
  • Keep an RPA at least 5.5km away from an aerodrome or helicopter landing site without approval [101.075; 101.080]. There are apps and software that can assist with this, see for example the Drone Complier Software website.
  • Do not fly a RPA over or near an area affecting public safety or where emergency operations are underway (without prior approval). This could include situations such as a car crash, police operations, fire and associated fire fighting efforts and search and rescue [reg 101.055];
  • Do not operate an RPA in a prohibited area or in a restricted area without the permission of, and without operating in accordance with, any conditions imposed by the authority controlling the area.[reg 101.065];
  • Do not fly an RPA autonomously; [reg 101.097]; The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is still developing regulations for autonomous flight however currently approval has to be sought and is only granted on a case by case basis. Conditions to that approval may apply.
  • Do not fly an RPA over any populous areas [reg 101.025]; A populous area can include: beaches, parks and sporting ovals [see regulations 101.025; 101.280; 101.235]. There is an exception if the RPA is certified as airworthy [reg 101.280]. A populous area is: when the area has a sufficient density of population for some aspect of the operation, or some event that might happen during the operation (in particular, a fault in, or failure of, the aircraft or rocket) to pose an unreasonable risk to the life, safety or property of somebody who is in the area but is not connected with the operation [reg 101.025].

It is an offence to fly an RPA in controlled airspace without complying with the prescribed requirements [reg 101.072, 101.285].

Penalties apply if anything is dropped or discharged from an RPA that creates a hazard to another aircraft, a person or property [reg 101.090].

Permits to fly drones in National Parks

It is an offence to fly a drone or other remotely piloted aircraft in a South Australian National Park or Reserve without a permit [see National Parks and Wildlife (National Parks) Regulations 2016 reg 12 (3)].

Maximum penalty: $1000

Expiation fee: $75

National Parks and Wildlife (National Parks) Regulations 2016 reg 42(1).

It is a defence to this charge if :

(a) the defendant proves that he or she acted in response to an emergency; and

(b) the court finds that the action was reasonable in the circumstances.

See reg 42(2).

Permits can be obtained from the Department for Environment and Water, see the South Australian Department for Environment and Water website.

Standard operating conditions for Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA)  :  Last Revised: Wed Dec 12th 2018
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