Guidance on Drone Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations finally in sight…

Published: 7 April 2021


Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Drone Operations: one of the key elements to unlocking the true potential of drones.

Drone BVLOS operation applications to date have been assessed by the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) on a case-by-case basis with the process individually repeated for each new application…until now (or nearly now).

What is happening?

CASA is developing guidance to help drone operators (ReOC holders only) to successfully make BVLOS applications by developing some draft standard scenarios to provide clarity around the minimum evidence and information requirements for a BVLOS operation.

Even before this guidance, the Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA) process has underpinned CASA’s assessment of BVLOS applications – and will continue to do so under these guidance documents.

In short, SORA is a 10-step risk assessment process that provides the minimum technical, operational and organisational requirements an operator must provide for an acceptable safety case.

The standard scenarios cover RPAS operations that meet predefined criteria and comply with the methods and principles of the SORA.

CASA strongly recommends that operators download and read the SORA annexes to ensure familiarity with the terminology used before completing the CASA BVLOS Standard Scenarios. The SORA package is available from the JARUS website available here.

CASA’s guidance material contains suggested content that is considered to capture the minimum requirements to support the safety case for a BVLOS application. Applicants may provide alternative mitigations provided they meet or exceed the requirements. In any case, applicants should consider any additional safety mitigation measures, evidence and supporting documentation over-and-above the minimum requirements which are appropriate to best support their safety case.

What are the Standard Scenarios?

To kick-off, CASA has developed 5 standard scenarios (denoted by AU-STS) as well as a general guidance document, that have been developed for BVLOS operations in Australian airspace.

The 5 stands scenarios are below. Please note that the links are to the draft consultation versions, and so generally should not be used until CASA issues final versions.

These provide guidance for BVLOS operations:

  1. Near a vertical object(s) with a controlled ground environment [AU-STS 1].
  2. Near a vertical object(s) with a sparsely populated ground environment [AU-STS 2].
  3. In a remote area within 3 nautical miles of a registered or certified non-controlled aerodrome [AU-STS 4].
  4. In remote Australian airspace below 400 ft Above Ground Level [AU-STS 6].
  5. In remote Australian airspace 400 ft Above Ground Level to 5000 ft Above Mean Sea Level [AU-STS 7].

Where to from here?

These BVLOS guidance documents are still in the consultation stage. They are open for comment until 7 April here (which might have lapsed by the time you read this).

Nonetheless, in our view the documents are generally helpful and do provide some guidance and standardisation for operators who want to make a BVLOS operation application.

While only on draft form at the moment, being across these draft documents and refreshing your SORA knowledge will put you in a good place to hit the sky flying BVLOS once these documents are released for operational purposes.

If you have any questions please be in contact without hesitation.

Fly Free!

The Drone Lawyer

7 April 2021