CASA’s Oops moment slightly lowers bar for all BVLOS drone operations...

Published: 4 May 2020

Executive Summary

Australian licensed drone operators have been given a temporary exemption from the exam usually required to conduct Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations, as long as the pilot is supervised by someone who has passed the exam.


On 24 April 2020, the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) released an exemption concerning the requirements for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone operations, titled CASA EX67/20 — Remotely Piloted Aircraft Operations Beyond Visual Line of Sight Instrument 2020, which is available here.


Section 101.300 (4) (a) of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 (Regulations)  typically requires the pilot of a BVLOS drone operation to have first passed an exam.

The Oops moment…

When previously processing applications for approval to operate BVLOS, CASA has issued approvals under the misunderstanding that a remote pilot who has not completed the relevant exam can do so if under the supervision of a pilot who does have that qualification.

Upon discovering this error, rather than say, clawing back approvals already issued on this basis, CASA has issued this exemption to allow unqualified pilots to continue to operate BVLOS, as long as under the supervision of a qualified pilot.

The result

The pilot can conduct a BVLOS operation without having passed an examination required by section 101.300 (4) (a) the Regulations.

The catch…

It is important to note that:

[1] The drone operator must have documented practices and procedures concerning BVLOS operations that have been approved by CASA; and

[2] The BVLOS operation must be conducted under the immediate supervision of a remote pilot who has passed the exam. However, the supervisor may observe multiple flights at the one time.

Final remarks

Notably, CASA is satisfied that the exemption will preserve an acceptable level of safety. 

In considration of CASA referring to the relevant exam as “an unnecessary burden”, we wonder whether, once the exemption is repealed on 30 April 2021, the exam will  become necessary to conduct BVLOS flights, or whether a broader legislative amendment will be made to remove that requirement.

In the meantime, in light of the above I guess we won’t see you later.

Fly free!

The Drone Lawyer

4 May 2020