Australian Drone Law on Registration & Accreditation: Part 1 – Drone Registration

Published: 5 September 2019


On 25 July 2019, the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations were amended to incorporate the introduction of drone pilot accreditation and drone registration. This comprised over 95 alterations to the Regulations.

In this article, we look at drone registration only. Hope you take some value from these observations which provide you with 15 key points arising from the amendments. A further article on accreditation will come shortly.

New Definitions

[1] First up, some relevant definitions have changed which completely separates a ‘Remotely Piloted Aircraft’ (RPA) from a ‘model aircraft’.

[2] Under the amendments, an RPA is now defined as a Remotely Piloted Aircraft, other than a balloon, kite, or model aircraft. That is, a model aircraft is NOT an RPA.

[3] We then also have an amended definition of ‘model aircraft’ which is defined as an aircraft (other than a balloon or a kite) that does not carry a person AND:

(a) is being operated for the purpose of sport or recreation; and has a gross weight of not more than 150 kg; OR

(b) has a gross weight of not more than 7 kg, and is being operated in connection with the educational, training or research purposes of a school where there is an approved authority under the Australian Education Act 2013; or a higher education provider within the meaning of the Higher Education Support Act 2003.

The Ol’ Part 47….well, the new Part 47

[4] While the lion’s share of drone regulations are located in Part 101 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations, the new amendments are scattered throughout the regulations and in particular we need to now pay attention to ‘Part 47—Registration of aircraft and related matters’. We can expect a Part 47 Manual of Standards on registration in the near future.

Which drones must be registered?

[5] Every drone must be registered UNLESS it is a ‘model aircraft’ with gross weight of no more than 250g; OR a gross weight of more than 250g AND is operated indoors; or a CASA-approved model aircraft flying field. A person can apply to CASA for approval of an area for the flying of  model aircraft. Further law might exempt certain classes of drone from registration.

By when do I need to register my drone?

[6] As to timing, it is anticipated that RPA registration will kick-off in November 2019; and model aircraft registration to begin in March 2020. 

What else should I be aware of?

[7] The penalty for NOT registering your drone is up to $10,500. This offence is ‘strict liability’ meaning that it does not matter if you did not intend to break the law; operating a drone that is required to be registered which is not registered is all that needs to be proven to make you liable. There are some technical defences available but that’s a yarn for another time.

[8] You must be over 16 years old to register a drone. The person who applies to register the aircraft will be the registration holder of the aircraft. If a person is supervising a drone pilot who is under 16 years old where the drone should be registered and is not, then the supervisor will cop the penalty.

[9] If you register a drone as a model aircraft, it must be operated exclusively as a model aircraft. That is, you must not operate a model aircraft as an RPA. However, a drone registered as an RPA may also be operated as a model aircraft.

[10] Upon registration, you will receive a certificate of registration and if your drone does not have a serial number then you will receive a registration mark. A certificate of registration may cover more than one drone.

[11] Registration typically lasts 12 months, and if you register on 29 February, the rego expiry date is pushed out to 1 March.

[12] While you are operating your registered drone, the Australian Federal Police, State/Territory Police, or other authorised person can ask to inspect your certificate of registration, which you must produce. So make sure you are always carrying your registration or a copy at all times when flying.

[13] If you transfer ownership of your drone, the new owner is to make a transfer application within 28 days.

[14] The regulations flag that the Part 101 Manual of Standards (MOS) may prescribe requirements relating to the identification or marking of drones required to be registered. At present, the MOS does not appear to make this mandatory as of yet.

[15] CASA is authorised to disclose information relating to your registered drone to a person providing an air traffic service or an enforcement body for an enforcement related activity.


As we have just seen, drones are now being regulated more like motor vehicles or piloted aircraft than toys. With the huge growth of the industry, the integration of drones into airspace, and the millions of dollars being invested by various Big Swingers, drones are growing up, and like becoming an adult – more freedom comes with more responsibility.

Please stay tuned for our article on the other piece of the puzzle – drone pilot accreditation.

Fly Free!

The Drone Lawyer

5 September 2019

Please note: this is information and does not constitute legal advice. However,  if you would like legal advice, please be in touch.