RePL Without a Cause: CASA’s plan on how to get a drone licence

Published: 10 October 2018

On 24 September,  the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) released a draft Manual of Standards (MOS) or more aptly titled “Monster of Standards” – 193 pages of reading so dry it makes a walk through the Simpson desert seem like a day at Wet’n’Wild.  A large chunk of it prescribes a syllabus for the attainment of a Remote Pilot Licence (RePL).

Below is an overview of CASA’s proposal on the process of attaining a RePL.


1. As expected, there are mandated theory and practical components. If you thought school was over, think again. Pack your lunch, we’re going in…

2. The theory component must contain at least 15 hours of contact time with a RePL training instructor (Instructor). This contact time can be by way of physical class room presence; and/or virtual presence; the virtual presence must be in real time.

3. The theory component exam must be a set of at least 80 multiple choice questions completed within an hour and a half and must cover all of the relevant aeronautical knowledge units in Schedule 4 of the MOS that are for the relevant category of drone. More on the  knowledge units shortly.

4. The examination pass mark for the theory component is 75%; and if you don’t pass in your first attempt, you can have one re-sit; bugger that up and you need to repeat the theory component.

5. If you score between 75% and 100%, the Instructor must, before your flight test (practical), prepare a report identifying the items you answered incorrectly; and give you a copy of the report with a view to you remedying the knowledge deficiency. Before the practical, the Trainer must be satisfied, through an oral examination, that you have remedied the knowledge deficiency.


1. The Trainer must keep each completed exam for at least 12 months, and keep a record of pretty much all other information relating to each and every exam attempted by an applicant for at least 7 years. E.g. name of student, date, whether a re-sit, the mark, and Trainer’s name.

2. The Trainer must have written practices and procedures concerning its document management.

3. The ratio of students to instructors must not be greater than 10 students to 1 Instructor for the theoretical component; and no more than 5 students to 1 Instructor for the practical component.

4. The Trainer conducting the practical flight test must retain just about all documents relating to each student who took the practical for at least 7 years after the practical.


The MOS is very prescriptive in its syllabus. We now outline part of the syllabus for (a) the Theory Component and (b) the Practical Component.


Schedule 4 of the MOS sets out the Aeronautical knowledge units, i.e. the theory. There are 6 Appendices of theory, however I only summarise one – Appendix 1: Any RPA – Common Units. Note that each Item below has sub-parts, which I have left out for brevity, but you can check it out if you’re interested or need a cure for insomnia.

Schedule 4 – Appendix 1: Any RPA – Common Units

Unit 1 Basic Aviation Knowledge for RPAS (RBAK)

Item 1: Direction of flight and wind

Item 2: Time

Item 3: Units of measurement for aeronautics

Item 4: Energy

Item 5: Aerodynamics, weight and balance

Item 6: Lift and drag

Item 7: Propellers and rotors

Item 8: Principles of operation – flight control

Item 9: Principles of operation – remote pilot station

Unit 2: Airspace, charts and aeronautical publications for RPAS (RACP)

Item 1: Airspace

Item 2: Obtaining information or approval

Item 3: NOTAMs

Item 4: Form of the earth, aeronautical charts and maps

Unit 3: Basic Meteorology for RPAS operations (RBMO)

Item 1: Weather phenomena

Item 2: Weather observations

Item 3: Aeronautical forecasts

Unit 4: Electrical and electronic systems for RPAS (REES)

Item 1: Electrical Terms

Item 2: Function of electrical components

[Items 3 -7 not present in the MOS]

Item 8: Electric motors

Item 9: Batteries

Item 10: Charging/discharging batteries

Item 11: Battery limitations

Item 12: Electromagnetic radiation

[no Item 13 in the MOS]

Item 14: Global Positioning System (GPS)

Unit 5: Human performance for RPAS (RHPF)

Item 1: General

Item 2: Basic health

Item 3: Vision, spatial disorientation, illusions

Item 4: Stress in relation to operating RPA

Item 5: Threat and error management

Item 6: Co-ordinating crew

Unit 6: RPAS knowledge – operations and procedures (RKOP)

Item 1: General operations

Item 2: Risk assessment and management

Item 3: Airworthiness – general

[No item 4 in MOS]

Item 5: Role equipment or sensors

Item 6: Accident and incident reporting

Item 7: Abnormal operations

Item 8: Fail-safe procedures and emergency actions

Item 9: Operation of RPA near aerodrome

Item 10: Operations of RPA above 400 FT AGL

Unit 7: Operation rules and air law for RPAS (RORA)

Item 1:  Aviation legislation and information

Item 2: Remote pilot licence

Unit 8: Automated flight management systems for RPAS – knowledge (RAFM)

Item 1: General


Schedule 5 of the MOS sets out the practical component  in detail but for today’s purposes we will only go through the high-level breakdown of the topics covered in the practical located in Schedule 3, Appendix 1: Practical competency standards – Common units, which are as follows:

GEL: General English language proficiency

RC1: Perform pre- and post-operation actions and procedures for RPAS.

RC2: Energy management for RPAS

RC3: Manage crew, payload and bystanders for RPAS operation

RC4: Navigation and operations of RPAS

RNT: Non-technical skills for operation of RPAS

RAF: Automated flight management systems for RPAS – operation.


While the above is only DRAFT material, it does give us a feel for where CASA is headed and where it is sending drone pilots: to the classroom.

Fly Free!

The Drone Lawyer

10 October 2018