CASA issues 500th unmanned operators certificate

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The Yamaha RMAX, one of the many remotely piloted aircraft used by UOC holders in Australia.

CASA has issued the 500th unmanned operators certificate (UOC), marking a milestone for commercial drone operations in Australia.

Australia was the first country in the world to regulate remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) when first operational regulations began in 2002.

Under these rules, anyone wanting to use a remotely piloted aircraft—commonly referred to as a ‘drone’—for commercial purposes must be certified by CASA.

The current list of UOCs has a range of operators around Australia, including state fire authorities and police forces and specialists in various RPA applications including aerial surveying, photography and power line inspections.

The RPA sector has seen seismic growth in recent years with competition among drone manufacturers resulting in big improvements in technology and performance on an almost annual basis.

As Flight Safety Australia reported earlier in March, the latest offering from one of the world’s largest manufactures sees the inclusion of sense-and-avoid technology, allowing for greater automation of unmanned flight in the hands of the general public than ever before.

These advancements have also led industries not traditionally associated with aviation to experiment with how RPA systems can improve their commercial operations.

In 2012, a decade after the first regulations were introduced, CASA had received 50 applications from potential UOC holders nationwide. The following four years led to a further 450 approvals, signifying the rapid growth the sector continues to experience.

In fact, by 2020, industry experts are predicting growth of anywhere between 200 and 500 per cent.

CASA is hoping that proposed amendments to Part 101, the civil aviation legislation governing unmanned flight, will be approved in the coming months making RPAs even more accessible for commercial use particularly those operators flying aircraft below two kilograms.

More information on operating an RPAS, along with a full list of all the CASA certified unmanned operators in Australia can be found via CASA’s website.

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