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To operate an Unmanned Aerial System legally in Australia, you need a CASA Operator’s Certificate. There are an increasing number of courses now available from a host of different suppliers, so in this guide we hope to help you separate fact from fiction! 

Because UAV technology is new for many commercial applications such as aerial mapping and surveying, the rules and regulations issued by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) have had to adapt and change rapidly in recent years. Initially UAVs fell through a gap between light, hobby aircraft flying at very low altitude and large manned aircraft, which meant that none of the rules really applied to them. 

The pendulum quickly swung in the opposite direction and soon there was an arduous and lengthy process involved in obtaining your CASA UAV Operators Certificate, including the completion of a Private Pilot Licence (PPL), writing a comprehensive user manual for the type of UAV you were to operate and undergoing thorough training for the model of aircraft of your choice. CASA realised that a better solution was required.

CASA is now using the term ‘Remotely Piloted Aircraft System’, or RPAS instead of UAV or UAS. Now, it is possible to undertake a CASA-approved RPAS training course in order to satisfy the requirements to apply for your Operator’s Certificate. These courses can be completed in a matter of weeks (some suppliers offer courses in as little as five days) and following the course completion, the student is legally certified to operate an UAV under their CASA Operator’s Certificate. 

But not all RPAS training courses are created equal! 

There are, in fact, two types of RPAS training courses: Restricted and Unrestricted. Both of these courses cover you to operate an electric UAV that weighs less than 7kg and flies at 400ft or below within visual line of sight (VLOS). 

If you are told you can complete Basic RPAS Training in five days at a cheaper cost, you need to ask some questions and find out exactly what sort of course you are signing up for! 

Restricted RPAS training courses

Restricted courses limit the user in the following ways: 

  • Restricted courses do not include licensing for manual operation of a UAV. A restricted course is  only applicable to “limited capacity” UAVs. This class of aircraft are deemed to have a “limited capacity” for pilot intervention when in flight (i.e. you are not certified for manual operation of the aircraft when in flight)
  • You are only certified to operate the exact type and model of aircraft you are trained on. If you choose to invest in a different system in the future, you will need to complete additional training to be licensed for that aircraft
  • You are only certified to operate in Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) at less than 400ft. If you plan to progress to more advanced functionality now or in the future to include extended VLOS (Ex-VLOS) or Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS), you will need to complete Unrestricted RPAS training

Unrestricted RPAS training courses

Unrestricted courses benefit the user in the following ways: 

  • Unrestricted licences enable you to operate a UAV in manual or manual-assist modes. With an unrestricted licence, you are licensed to operate more sophisticated UAVs that have both automatic and manual or manual assisted modes of operation
  • You are not limited to a specific type and model. An Unrestricted course enables you to operate any electric UAV that weighs less than 7kg, VLOS and at less than 400ft. This gives you the flexibility to change models or systems in the future, provided you are adequately trained in operation of the new system
  • Unrestricted courses provide the foundation for you to progress to Ex-VLOS or BVLOS systems. If you plan to extend your UAV capabilities in the future to include Extended Visual Line of Sight or Beyond Visual Line of Sight, you will need to have completed an Unrestricted RPAS training course first. 

If you are interested in learning more about Unrestricted RPAS training courses offered by Position Partners and our allied training partner Australian Unmanned Systems Academy (AUSA), the training division of V-TOL, call us on 1300 867 266.

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