The Civil Aviation Legislation Amendment (Part 101) regulation 2016 establishes a set of standard operating conditions for Remotely Pilot Aircraft (RPA), categorisations for RPA according to weight and introduces the concept of ‘excluded RPA’ to represent RPA operations considered to be lower risk.  Excluded RPA have reduced regulatory requirements, such as not needing an operator’s certificate or a remote pilot licence (RePL). These amendments took effect on the 29th of September 2016.

New Laws –  Sub 2kg RPA – Effective 29/9/16


The new Regulation establishes a set of standard operating conditions for Remotely Pilot Aircraft (RPA), categorisations for RPA according to weight and introduces the concept of ‘excluded RPA’ to represent RPA operations considered to be lower risk.  Excluded RPA have reduced regulatory requirements, such as not needing an operator’s certificate or a remote pilot licence (RePL). The amendment does not replace all the existing rules in the Act or Regulations.

RPA in this category are considered a ‘very small RPA’ and would include an RPA such as a DJI Phantom. The new term ‘excluded RPA’ permits a ‘very small RPA’ to be operated commercially without requiring a Remote Pilot Licence (RePL) or an Remotely Piloted Aircraft Operators Certificate (ReOC)  provided that you comply with the ‘standard RPA operating conditions’ and other sections of the Act & Regulations.

The Regulation makes it an offence for a person (pilot or operator) to operate a very small RPA for hire or reward without first notifying CASA and allows CASA to establish and maintain a database of these operators.  Yes, you need to register with CASA as operators of an excluded RPA and you have to notify them when you first commence operating them commercially.

Yes, this means you can fly your Phantom,  or similar, for commercial purposes provide you comply with the new laws and the ‘Standard Operating Conditions’.

For a better understanding, please read below.

Some Definitions

 Very Small RPA  A very small RPA is a RPA with a gross weight of between 100g and 2kg.  

Excluded RPA (101.237) Excluded RPA are categorised according to size and the nature of operations. An ‘Excluded RPA’ can be operated without holding a Remote Piloted Certificate or operating under an Unmanned Operators Certificate provided it is operated with the standard RPA operating conditions. There are multiple parts to this section but it basically states;

  • A very small RPA is an excluded RPA if it is operated for the purpose of;
    • Sport or recreation,  or
    • In in accordance with the standard RPA operating conditions.

Sport or Recreation Operations Sport or recreational purposes means operating an RPA as a hobby or for pleasure. The operation does not generate a direct commercial outcome of any sort (for the pilot or any third party)

Meaning of standard RPA operating conditions

The standard RPA operating conditions consist of flying;

  • The RPA is operated:
    • by visual line of sight (VLOS) only – close enough to see, maintain orientation and achieve accurate flight and tracking
    • no higher than 120 m (400 feet) above ground level (see SOC note 1)
    • during daytime only – not after sunset

    The RPA is not operated:

    • any closer than 30 m from people not associated with the flight
    • in a prohibited area
    • in a restricted area
    • in a restricted area that is classified as RA3
    • over populous areas
    • within 5.5 km (3 NM) of a controlled aerodrome – one with an operating control tower
    • in the area of a public safety operation without the approval of a person in charge of the operation
    • only 1 RPA flown per pilot at any one time.

Distance from People and Manned Aircraft

Distance from People

The standard rule is that you must not operate within 30mtrs of a person (the second person) who is not directly associated with the operation of a RPA. A person is deemed not to be associated with the flight if that person is not charged with duties essential to the safe operation of a remotely piloted aircraft.

Distance from Manned Aircraft

RPA pilots should land their aircraft or move it to a safe location any time that a potential conflict may develop between the manned aircraft and the RPA. Important Notes

  •  Particular care should be taken in areas where low-level manned aircraft operations take place, especially in the vicinity of beaches and scenic areas (e.g. helicopters on shark patrol).
  • Be aware that low flying aircraft may suddenly appear with little warning.

 Meaning of Populous Place

Populous areas – for RPA operations, does not have its common meaning. Rather, it is defined in the regulations as:

 …an area [that] 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…) 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.

 For example, if a rotorcraft-type RPA is flying at a relatively low height (i.e. 30 m/100 ft) directly above a single person not associated with the flight, it may be considered to be operating in a populous area due to the fact that a complete loss of power may cause injury to the person below.

Similarly, an RPA operating over a large public gathering at a higher level (e.g. 120 m/400 ft) would pose an unreasonable risk to the safety of the people below because, in the event of a systems failure, it may not be able to clear the area. This interpretation would apply equally to higher flight over built-up areas where there is a greater risk to property.

Operating Near Non Controlled Aerodromes

When flying an excluded RPA near a non-controlled aerodrome, the remote pilot must ensure that it is:

  • Not operating on or above runways or taxiways, (Prohibited) or
  • Flown in the approach and departure paths for the aerodrome.

With reference to the below diagram, RPA must not be flown:

  • In the black area, and
  • Not above 150 ft in the 4 km grey racetrack-shaped area.

Note that these are strict limits and suitable buffers should be used to ensure the RPA does not enter the restricted airspace zones. The restrictions apply to each runway of an aerodrome, including gravel and grass strips and cross runways. aerodrome

Operating Near Helicopter Landing Sites (HLS)

For Helicopter Landing Sites, without instrument-guided approaches,  the following applies.

With reference to the below diagram, RPA must not be flown in:

  • The black circle (1 km diameter) and
  • Above 45 m (150 ft) in the grey shaded circle (4 km diameter)

Note that these are strict limits and suitable buffers should be used to ensure the RPA does not enter the restricted airspace zones. The HLS depicted is not to scale. hls

101.237     Farmers and Landowners

 The new regulations permit landowners to perform some commercial like activities on their land where there is no remuneration for any party.

  • A Small RPA is an excluded RPA if it is operated in a limited way by the owner of the aircraft on his or her own land.
  • The Regulation permits private landowners to carry out some commercial-like operations on their own land under the ‘standard RPA operating conditions’ without requiring them to hold an ‘Remotely Piloted Aircraft Operators Certificate’ (ReOC) or Remotely Pilot Licence)  (RePL), if using an RPA weighing up to 25 kg provided that none of the parties involved receive remuneration.
  • For RPA weighing between 25 kg to 150 kg, the operator needs to hold a remote pilot licence in the category of aircraft being flown.

Notify CASA

Operators and pilots of very small RPA for hire or reward and operators and pilots taking advantage of the ‘landholder’ rules will need to notify CASA of their intention to conduct operations and the location where the operations will take place.

Must notify CASA 5 business Days before first operation and this is a one-off process.

What does this mean for the RPA Industry

 Below are some thoughts from our perspective.

  • For the larger commercial operators, these changes have little impact as the majority of their work requires larger RPA to carry larger payloads.
  • For the larger commercial photography/videographer operators, these changes have little impact as the majority of their clients require superior camera quality which cannot be carried by the sub 2kg weight class.
  • For the Survey Operators, these changes have little impact as their clients are large commercial entities and local governments who insist on high standards of licensing, regulation and insurance.
  • For the 19 or so licensed RPA training organisations, it will have a significant impact initially for those that target the hobbyist/sub 2kg category. Time will demonstrate that the sub 2kg weight class is too restrictive and competitive and not what professional operators and organisations require.
  • Potentially, hundreds of DJI Phantom owners, and the sub 2kg class, will be competing for Real Estate work across the country. There is only so much work to go around and we have already seen comments, on social media and online advertising, that individuals are prepared to complete real estate assignments for $30 p/h.   However, the quality produced by these individuals will be inferior and at this rate, unlikely to be insured.
  • Realistically, Real Estate Agents will just purchase their own RPA and complete the work themselves but will soon realise the inferior camera payloads do not produce the imagery they require.

Is this the Solution for You?


  • Credibility: A licensed Remote Pilot (RePL) operating under an Remotely Piloted Operators Certificate (ReOC) has industry credibility. These qualifications indicate you possess the aviation qualifications and experience to operate legally and safely.
  • Insurance: It is essential that operators have Public Liability Insurance to protected themselves and their client.
    • This is easily obtained by companies that employee licensed Remote Pilots and operate under Remotely Piloted Operators Certificate (ReOC).
    • The only way for the Sub 2kg category to obtain insurance is if:
      • They join the AAUS and meet their membership requirements and pass and annual checks , and
      • Have a Remote Pilot Licence (RePL)
      • Yes, to obtain insurance you have to have a Remote Pilot Licence (RePL).  The estimated cost is between $1200 -$1500.
  • Exemptions:  Excluded RPAs are not eligible to apply for exemptions to operate outside the standard operating conditions or contrary to the relevant regulations. Examples of exemptions include:
    • Flying within 3nm of the boundary of an Controlled Aerodrome (Eg. Brisbane, Archerfield & Gold Coast)
    • Flight higher than 400ft,
    • Flying closer than 1km from a Helicopter Landing Sites,
    • Flying in the approach/departure/movement area of a Runway,
    • Flying closer than 30mtrs from people.
  • Restricted Airspace:  Sub 2kg operators can apply to a controlling authority to operate in Restricted Airspace that has RA1 and RA2 categories.  The controlling authority is not obliged to grant this permission or give a specific reason for declining the request.  Eg. Operating in Amberley Military Airspace
  • Payloads: The sub 2kg weight category cannot carry large payloads which impacts the quality of the payload that can be carried. As an example, If you want to perform real estate photography, not all agents are happy with the imagery produced by a GOPRO or the DJI cameras.

New Offences

 The Regulation also creates a series of new offences, including offences relating to the environment in which an RPA can be operated, failure to hold the appropriate remote pilot licence or Unmanned Operator Certificate, record keeping, compliance with agreed policy and procedures and failing to notify CASA of changes in operation or circumstance.

  1. Regulation 101.072 – operating an unmanned aircraft in controlled airspace and does not comply with the requirements in the MOS.
  2. Regulation 101.073 – operating an unmanned aircraft beyond their visual line of sight.
  3. Regulation 101.097 – causing an autonomous aircraft to be launched or released
  4. Regulation 101.247 – operating an RPA in a prescribed area not in accordance with a requirement in the
  5. Regulation 101.252 – operating an RPA without a remote pilot licence that authorises the person to operate that RPA.
  6. Regulation 101.270 – conducting non-excluded operations using RPA without holding a certificate as an RPA operator.
  7. Regulation 101.272 – not complying with a requirement under sub regulation 101.272(1) to keep records and give information to CASA as set out in the Part 101 MOS.
  8. Regulation 101.300 – failure to comply with conditions of a remote pilot licence.
  9. Regulation 101.370 – not complying with the operator’s documented practices and procedures.
  10. Regulation 101.371 – operating a very small RPA for hire or reward without notifying CASA at least 5 business days before the first operation, unless they hold an UOC.
  11. Regulation 101.373 – failing to notify CASA of a change, event or matter of a kind set out in the Part 101 Manual of Standards within 21 business days.