To whom it may concern,
I am writing to you to ensure you are aware of a new CASA Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) which we believe may have serious safety repercussions for the aviation industry in Australia.
Proposal number 4 of NPRM 1309OS – May 2014, proposes an exemption from regulatory certification or licencing for operators of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) up to a maximum weight of 2kg.
The deadline for responses to NPRM1309OS is the 16th of June 2014.
ACUO believes the Key proposal No. 4 in NPRM 1309OS may have significant safety and risk implications for all aviation interests including Australian & International Airlines and General Aviation, particularly in already congested & controlled airspace over major & regional cities.
This proposal also poses a serious risk to the integrity of the commercial UAV industry in this country and the excellent safety record achieved to date.
ACUO is the peak industry association seeking to advance the commercial RPAS industry in Australia, but is committed first and foremost to the maintenance and enhancement of aviation safety. We are deeply concerned at the ramifications of this proposed deregulation, particularly in the wake of increasingly common incidents of ‘near-misses’ between small RPAS and passenger carrying aircraft over urban areas not just in Australia, but internationally too.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has seen a disturbing increase in the number of reported incidents between RPAS and manned aircraft in the last 18 months however, it must be understood these are only the incidents formally reported to the ATSB, the larger majority go unreported.
Before 2011 – 0
2011 – 2
2012 – 2
2013 – 7
In the first quarter of 2014 already we have seen 1 RPAS accident from an illegal UAV operator (A triathlete injured in Geraldton) & 2 reported ‘near-miss’ incidents involving small RPAS.
The latest incident involved an illegal or unauthorized small RPAS at 1000ft AGL over Newcastle, in a ‘near-miss’ with a Westpac rescue helicopter returning to base late at night.
(ATSB incident No. AO-2014-056) – Newcastle – 22 March 2014
Days earlier, a more chilling incident involved an illegal or unauthorized small RPAS in a ‘near-miss’ with a passenger aircraft passing through 4000ft AGL on descent into Perth airport.
(ATSB incident No. AO-2014-052) – Perth Airport – 19 March 2014
In both incidents the pilots observed the RPAS tracking towards them and both pilots took evasive action to avoid a midair collision. To our knowledge, neither of the RPAS pilots has yet been identified for their breaches of the regulations.
It must be stressed that of all the RPAS incidents reported to ATSB in the last 4 years, only 1 involved a CASA certified UAV operator and in that incident the commercial UAV operator was exonerated of any wrong doing.
[ATSB incident No. AO-2013-167 – Horsham]
All other reports of illegal and unauthorized RPAS use appear to have originated from the recreational or hobby sector.
CASA frequently compares the small sub-2kg RPAS sector with the recreational ‘Model Aircraft’ sector however this comparison ignores 3 key distinctions:
1. These small RPAS do not fit the true definition of a ‘Model Aircraft’ under the MAAA rules. Unlike traditional Model Aircraft which require direct visual & manual control of them at all times, small RPAS can be operated by complete novices well beyond the traditional limits of Model Aircraft pilots.
2. A large number of people buying these small RPAS are not from an aviation background, do not belong to the Model Aircraft association and have little or no concept of the dangers they pose to manned aviation or the general public. [The Model Aeronautical Association of Australia (MAAA) is the administrative authority for ‘Model Aircraft’]
3. These small sub-2kg RPAS are not contained to traditional MAAA flying fields anymore, but are being operated from suburban & city environments, from public parks & gardens, and in populous areas unsuitable for the errant recreational operation of these aircraft. This is precisely the same areas that CASA already stipulate off limits to small RPAS. (Other than those approved and certified by CASA to operate commercially)
The sub-2kg sector of unmanned aviation is currently the most problematic to contain due to the huge consumer interest in these RPAS and the wide availability at a low price. More & more they are being operated at dangerous altitudes well above 400ft AGL, frequently over populous areas and often in controlled airspace.
No other regulatory authority in the world is currently seeking or proposing to deregulate an entire class of RPAS. Indeed, the sub-2kg category as identified in NPRM 1309OS are precisely the type of RPAS which continue to be the focus of extensive regulatory review and risk assessment by a number of civil aviation regulators globally, including the United States Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), as they seek to find ways to safely integrate all forms of unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system.
At a time when certified UAV operators are being forced to undertake timely & expensive Area Approvals to operate in Controlled Airspace and within 3nm of an airport, aerodrome or HLS, there is no justification for deregulating the recreational use of these small RPAS. This small but troublesome sector of the unmanned aviation industry cannot be allowed to continue unabated, without adequate safety oversight and without effective enforcement of the regulations.
ACUO respectfully request you support ACUO initiatives to oppose CASA’s Key proposal No. 4 of NPRM 1309OS.
You can show your support for this ACUO initiative by:
A. Making a formal submission to CASA NPRM1309OS individually vie the NPRM Response Form
B. Becoming a member of ACUO [and by default, responding to the NPRM collectively with ACUO members]
C. Signing your name to the attached Petition and returning it to ACUO via email
a. Your details will be added to the UOC holder list supplied to CASA with ACUO’s formal response
b. (Regardless of whether you choose to become a member of ACUO or not)
More information about NPRM 1309OS and a CASA Response Form can be downloaded from the CASA
The deadline for responses to NPRM1309OS is the 16th of June 2014
In the following pages you will find a brief outlining ACUO’s position on the 4 Key Proposals in NPRM1309OS. I have also included the 2 Key Recommendations ACUO believes are absolutely critical to improving the safety & integrity of the RPAS industry in Australia.
I will be pleased to discuss these issues further if you require more information, or you can contact the secretary direct.
Email: [email protected]
Email: [email protected]
ACUO POSITION ON THE KEY PROPOSALS IN THE NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULE MAKING (NPRM) 1309OS – JUNE 2014
KEY PROPOSAL NO. 1: Bring the terminology in line with ICAO
ACUO accepts this Key Proposal without change.
KEY PROPOSAL NO. 2: Clarify the current requirements for remote pilot training and certification
ACUO accepts this Key Proposal only with the following changes:
a) Making modifications for the ACUO recommendations under Key proposal No 4
KEY PROPOSAL NO. 3: Remove redundant requirements and simplify the process for approval
ACUO accepts this Key Proposal only with the following changes:
a) Making modifications for the ACUO recommendations under Key proposal No 4
KEY PROPOSAL NO. 4: RPA of gross weight of 2 kilograms and below, operating under the standard RPA operating conditions will not require CASA approval to operate
ACUO rejects this Key Proposal as not acceptable under any circumstances.
Instead, ACUO propose an alternative option as is explained below in 2 Key Recommendations to improve the safety & integrity of the RPAS industry in Australia.
ACUO KEY RECOMMENDATION 1: More effective administration of the small RPAS sector of unmanned aviation The disparities between what is termed by the MAAA a Model Aircraft, and what is termed by CASA a UAV/UAS/RPAS, calls for more effective overall administration of the unmanned aviation sector.
These disparities include the obvious extended flight & range capabilities of a RPAS over a Model Aircraft, the fact that RPAS do not require any skills or experience to fly them (unlike Model Aircraft) but more importantly, that RPAS are being flown in areas not normally permitted under the civil aviation regulations, council ordinances and state & federal laws.
The issue is compounded by the fact that the MAAA do not allow the operation of RPAS at MAAA sanctioned flying fields, and do not provide insurance cover for individual clubs or MAAA members who wish to fly RPAS.
ACUO believes it is time for CASA to recognize there is a whole ‘other’ sector of unmanned aviation in ‘Recreational RPAS’.
That is, RPAS being used for other than R&D, commercial, or commercially related activities. These ‘other’ RPAS activities include; RPAS FPV flying, RPAS racing, and consumer & recreational RPAS flying for the pure fun of it.
(Into this category could also be included Primary & Secondary school ‘Educational RPAS’ activities)These small RPAS do not fit the definition of a ‘Model Aircraft’ under the MAAA rules, and are not recognized or insured under the MAAA. By default, they are being used in inappropriate places like public parks & gardens, sports grounds, populous areas and urban & city environments. This is also (often by default too) in controlled airspace as well.
The extended capabilities and range of even the most simple & generic of RPAS today, demands that they be treated separately from ‘Model Aircraft’ and be more appropriately administered in line with the wider RPAS industry.
ACUO make the following recommendations to CASA RPAS regulations under NPRM1309OS and stand ready to assist CASA in the administration of the small RPAS sector of unmanned aviation:
a) That all RPAS of all types & sizes [above a Micro RPAS] should be subject to certification & licencing, including the sub-2kg category and a new category of ‘Recreational RPAS’.
b) As a minimum, sub-2kg & ‘Recreational RPAS’ owners/pilots be required to pass a Basic Aeronautical Knowledge (BAK) theory exam [and provide documentary evidence of same for formal registration]
i. This would only apply to sport & recreational use of RPAS but would ensure that (from the novice level
upward) all RPAS pilots at least understand the essential airspace rules, aviation regulations & the
dangers associated with flying in unauthorized areas and airspace
ii. If the standard BAK is not considered suitable, ACUO believe the SCC Working Group could develop a
specific RPAS Basic Aeronautical Knowledge (RPAS-BAK) syllabus with CASA, and have this available
nationally within a very short period of time [3-4 months]
iii. All other RPAS activities would require a UAV Controller Certificate, or a Remote Pilot Licence-Level 1
for the Pilots, and if operating commercially for Hire & Reward, a UAV Operator Certificate for the
business entity as well [no exemptions or exceptions]
c) All ‘Recreational RPAS’ owners/pilots in Australia be registered annually with CASA [or a CASA delegated administrative authority]
d) All ‘Recreational RPAS’ owners/pilots be required to maintain a log-book of all flights including Date, Time & Location. (And be required to carry both Log-Book & Registration at all times whilst flying)
ACUO KEY RECOMMENDATION 2: A review of CASA Enforcement Policies relating to RPAS
The more than 10 years of CASA regulatory oversight of the unmanned sector of aviation has highlighted a number of anomalies in the regulations and a broader realisation that the dynamics of unmanned aviation, the accessibility of RPAS today and the immediacy with which RPAS can be made operational, far outstrips the capacity of CASA to enforce the regulations utilizing the existing CASA enforcement policies.
The time it takes to notice an illegal or unauthorized RPAS operator at work, report them to CASA and have CASA action resources to catch the offenders, is way too slow to be at all effective in enforcing the civil aviation act. Offenders can initiate an illegal RPAS operation, fly the RPAS to capture the necessary data or images, and be packed up and gone before anyone can even have time to report it to CASA. Even if it were reported to CASA immediately, they do not have the resources to be everywhere at once and it is an impossible task for CASA alone to enforce.
ACUO believe it is critical to the safety of Australian aviation that we review CASA enforcement policies so that they are made more effective in managing the unmanned sector of aviation. This should be done in conjunction with the Australian Local Government Association and State & Federal Police.
What must be fully understood by CASA, industry & the public is that aviation safety is paramount. If recreational pastimes begin to threaten aviation &/or public safety, as they are starting to do, then it is the recreational pastimes which will suffer further limitations to their flying freedom. We cannot allow the recreational sector of unmanned aviation to jeopardize the integrity & safety of aviation in this country.
On that basis, it is becoming evident that far more needs to be done to educate & inform the public about the basis for aviation regulations, the aviation systems & protocols in place and of the dangers of non-compliance.
The recently revamped CASA website pertaining to RPAS is a vast improvement on the previously limited information available. This tends to catch a large amount of interest from those proposing to enter the aviation industry as a commercial RPAS operator or RPAS pilot. That being said, more still needs to be done to get the message out there.
One sector however that stands out for specific attention is the thousands of people who buy small ‘consumer’ or ‘hobby’ RPAS, yet have no aviation background, no concept of a ‘Model Aircraft’ association or the MAAA rules, and no idea they are even legislated under aviation regulations. These people have bought their RPAS purely for the fun of it and do not understand the dangers they pose to other aircraft and other people. There is also a high propensity for recreational RPAS flyers to push beyond the acceptable regulatory limits. This presents a serious elevation of risk to other aviation interests, as is evidenced by the ATSB figures and recent events. This is the real situation we are currently faced with.
To combat the illegal & unauthorized RPAS activity in this country we must find more effective means to enforce the civil aviation regulations. ACUO believes it is well past time to change CASA’s ‘soft-policy’ approach to enforcement for a more hardened response to the increasing illegal & unauthorized RPAS activities.
ACUO recommend the following initiatives as a matter of priority:
a) CASA cease the ‘Soft-Policy’ approach to regulatory enforcement and begin prosecuting illegal & unauthorized UAV operators when & where found (Instead of only prompting illegal UAV operators into formal certification without any penalties)
b) CASA enforcement policies be reviewed & strengthened to establish more effective means of policing &
enforcing the regulations for unmanned aviation. This should be undertaken in conjunction with the SCC
Working Group, the Australian Local Government Association and State & Federal Police
c) The penalties for illegal & unauthorized RPAS operations should include:
On-the-spot fines for minor [low-risk] breaches of the regulations
Increased fines for illegal UAV operators [ie $000,s, not $00’s] and this should increase exponentially for
An option to confiscate RPAS & equipment and [if necessary] the RPAS & equipment be sold or
auctioned to offset the costs of enforcement
Automatic bans on applying for formal CASA certification & licencing if previously caught and penalized
for an offence under the civil aviation act.
A 3 month suspension on applying for a UAV Controller Certificate or a Remote Pilot Licence if
previously caught and penalized for an offence under the civil aviation act
A 6 month suspension on applying for a UAV Operator Certificate if previously caught and
penalized for an offence under the civil aviation act
A fine and a 3 month suspension from commercial operations, on a first offence against a
certified UAV Operator
Doubled-fines and 6-month suspensions thereafter
After 3 offences, automatic cancellation of UOC [& all new re-application to CASA]
d) The revised Part 101 regulations include a provision that makes it illegal for an uncertified UAV operator to publicly advertise their aviation business services, prior to obtaining a UAV Operator Certificate from CASA
A similar provision is written into CAR88 regulations [CAR210] making it illegal for anyone to advertise
for [manned] Aerial Work Operations without an AOC
The same should be true for commercial unmanned aviation as well
If you agree with these 2 Key Recommendations made by ACUO above, you can show your support by signing the Petition attached with this letter and returning it to the Secretary of ACUO via email.
Thanking you for your time.