Australia introduces new app to cut red tape for drone operators close to airports

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has announced new measures to reduce the red tape burden on remotely piloted aircraft operators within 3 nm (5,5km) of an airport. Working with Airservices Australia, CASA is trialling a new digital, automated process for some remotely piloted aircraft operations near controlled aerodromes, reducing application processing times from weeks to seconds. The aim is to streamline approval processes for commercial drone operators.

The trial is due to commence late April will take place at three aerodromes, saving time and money for approved commercial drone operators, and cut down on paper-based forms.

The chief pilot of remotely piloted aircraft operator certificate holders will be able to apply through a CASA-verified drone safety app for approval to fly in designated areas within three nautical miles of the aerodromes.

The approval, where safe to do so, will be given in real time as long as required conditions can be met. The digital process will be delivered through CASA’s RPAS digital platform, with Airservices playing a key role in developing the designated maps in conjunction with partner, Queensland University of Technology. Airservices has utilised its air traffic control expertise to understand the safety risks and conduct the relevant analysis required to enable these automated authorisations to take place.

Drone operators in Australia currently have access to three CASA-verified drone safety apps.

CASA’s acting CEO and Director of Aviation Safety, Graeme Crawford, said the remotely piloted aircraft trial would offer tangible benefits to the drone industry: “Moving to digital approval processes is a key initiative for CASA, streamlining interactions and making it easier for operators.”

Airservices’ CEO, Jason Harfield, said the initiative is a great step furthering innovation in Australian skies: “The streamlined approval process has been a great collaboration between CASA and Airservices and will see faster approvals for operators for access to airspace without compromising on the safety of all airspace users.”

The initiative was announced at the Australian Association for Unmanned Systems RPAS in Australian Skies 2021 conference.

Wing announced its support for the new authorisation process, backed by Wing’s OpenSky app. The company said drone operators can automatically request authorisation to fly in controlled airspace like airports and around major cities. The ability to obtain real-time, almost instantaneous authorisation to fly in controlled airspace means that certified drone pilots are able to get up and flying faster and take on more jobs.

The programme will be first available to chief remote pilots of a remotely piloted operator’s certificate (ReOC). Pilots can sign up today to check their eligibility to test the Automated Approval program. The ability for remote pilots to obtain automated access to controlled airspace was pioneered by the LAANC programme in the US by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2017. It allows recreational and commercial drone operators to receive automated and instant airspace authorisation to fly in controlled airspace under 120 metres using an FAA approved drone safety app of choice.

The Automated Approval programme will be enabled initially around three select airports (the locations to be announced at a later date).  This will allow OpenSky and CASA to gain vital information and experience with selected users in the field before expanding to more airports and flyers across Australia.

(Image: Wing)

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