CASA flags changes to its pending Drone Manual of Standards

Published: 16 March 2019

Super summary: the Tweet

Following public consultation, CASA has made some amendments to its draft Part 101 Manual of Standards for drones, including requirements for drone training schools, obtaining a RePL, Extended Visual Line of Sight operations, and record keeping. 


In September 2018, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) released a proposed Part 101 (Unmanned aircraft and rockets) Manual of Standards 2018 (MOS), or more aptly titled “Monster of Standards”: 193-pages of eye-glazing material that in comparison makes counting sheep feel like an adrenaline sport. I retract that; in truth, the MOS is seriously important material providing critical guidance to drone pilots on key operational issues.

CASA opened a consultation survey from 24 September to 18 November 2018 which invited anyone to comment on the proposed MOS. Earlier this month, CASA released a report summarising the responses from the consultation survey and CASA’s response. The report is only 11 pages and available here.

Nonetheless, I am catering to those who are so time poor they consider blinking a waste of time. So here’s the Need-To-Know 17-point summary of a summary….

Aeronautical knowledge syllabus

[1] CASA will proceed with a limit on new remote pilot licence (RePL) holders to drones of 7kg maximum gross weight.

[2] Changes to the draft examination requirements include:

(a) open-book exam;

(b) increasing the time to complete the exam;

(c) allowing a second re-sit of the exam before having to repeat the course;

(d) increasing the pass mark;

Practical competency syllabus

[3] Greater focus on planning and practical considerations beyond simply controlling the drone in various phases of flight, including understanding degraded modes of automation.

Upgrading a RePL

[4] RePL holders with a 7kg limit on their licence will be able to get the condition removed by undergoing short practical training either with a drone training organisation or approved Remote Operator’s Certificate (ReOC) holder.

[5] Exam credits for applicants for an upgraded RePL reduced from 5 to 3 years for those who cannot show ongoing industry involvement. Credit period for those who can show ongoing professional involvement to remain at 5 years.

Requirements for drone training schools

[6] Mandated contact time between instructors and students for the aeronautical knowledge syllabus retained at 15 hours, with an additional 4 hours for each additional category of drone.

[7] Ratio of instructors to students for practical training replaced with requirement that the instructor may only instruct a maximum of 3 students actually flying, non-complex, drones at any one time. Instruction for aircraft designated as complex will be carried out with a maximum of two students at any one time.

[8] Certificate III course for teaching/instruction removed. An option for formal teacher qualifications has been added, in line with conventionally piloted instructor standards.

[9] To be an instructor, CASA will prescribe a minimum of 20 hours experience operating a drone in the category being taught. The 20 hours will need to be gained operating drones in the category in operations other than training.

[10] CASA proposes to commence the training aspects of the MOS 9-months from the date it goes live; other parts of the MOS will commence 6-months after the MOS goes live.


[11] CASA has not created a prescriptive standard for tethering; rather it has been left to operators to ensure that the tether is suitable.

Extended visual line of sight operations (EVLOS)

[12] CASA has removed the prescriptive requirement that a EVLOS pilot must have completed at least 5 hours of flight time in VLOS operations (in addition to the 5 hours experience required to get a RePL) with a drone of the same type as the drone that is to be used in the EVLOS operation. Rather, CASA plans to allow an operator-determined (still CASA-approved) type of experience.

[13] In relation to the maximum distance that a drone can be operated from the remote pilot, CASA has amended this to be 80% of the manufacturer’s published control link performance figure.

[14] CASA rejected use of first-person view (FPV) goggles for use in single person EVLOS operations where the drone flies behind obstacles, or as a substitute for observers; the current FPV exemption currently in place for recreational operations (e.g. drone racing) under certain conditions, will remain.

Record keeping and notification

[15] CASA has provided some alleviations to the draft proposal with respect to drones with avgross weight less than 2kg.

[16] Single-person operators will not have to complete the ‘Operational release’.

[17] CASA will allow the use of electronic records provided that they are shown to be immutable once completed.

I will be keeping my eye on the changes as they come into force.

Fly Free!

The Drone Lawyer

16 March 2019