Has the meaning of Model Aircraft gone MIA?

Published: 7 November 2020

Is there currently no definition of Model Aircraft in the aviation legislation?

Quick background…

The drone registration and pilot accreditation scheme came into play on 30 September 2020 for RPA; and is scheduled to come into play for model aircraft in March 2022. This scheme introduced new definitions of both RPA and model aircraft, which I have written about elsewhere.

The changing meaning of model aircraft…

The meaning of model aircraft is contained in the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 (CASR).

In a superseded version of the CASR, model aircraft means an aircraft that is used for sport or recreation, and cannot carry a person, which I will call the “Old Meaning”.

The meaning of model aircraft in the current version of the CASR is contained in regulation 101.023, which tells us the meaning of model aircraft:

(1)  A model aircraft is an aircraft (other than a balloon or a kite) that does not carry a person:

(a)  if the aircraft:

     (i)  is being operated for the purpose of sport or recreation; and

     (ii)  has a gross weight of not more than 150 kg; or

(b)  if the aircraft has a gross weight of not more than 7 kg, and is being operated in connection with the educational, training or research purposes of:

     (i)  a school in relation to which there is an approved authority under the Australian Education Act 2013; or

     (ii)  a higher education provider within the meaning of the Higher Education Support Act 2003.

(2)  However, paragraph (1)(b) does not apply in relation to education, training or research conducted by or on behalf of an entity other than a school or higher education provider mentioned in subparagraph (1)(b)(i) or (ii).

Note:          A model aircraft is not an RPA (see the definition of RPA in regulation 101.021).

 (I will call the the above the “New Meaning”)

Now here’s where it gets weird…

If you pull out your sherbet shovel and monocle and go regulation digging, then you will see that CASR section 202.466 tells us that the New Meaning of model aircraft applies on and after 1 March 2022, that is, when model aircraft registration is due to come into force.

However, the Old Meaning has completely vanished from the CASR.

As a result, it seems that we are currently left without a legislative definition of model aircraft.


Similar to the current definition of model aircraft, I am without words…but if you have a differing view or wish to discuss, please be in touch.

Fly Free!

The Drone Lawyer

7 November 2020

Boring lawyer disclaimer: while this is not legal advice, if you would like legal advice please be in touch. Any legal advice is provided under Lawbase Pty Ltd