Australia invites comments on BVLOS knowledge standards for drone pilots

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CAAS) has launched a consultation on the proposed exam and aeronautical knowledge standards for drone pilots who want to operate their drone BVLOS outside of controlled airspace. The regulator invites active operators in the drone or traditional aviation industry to visit the consultation hub to provide input. The standards are relevant to all drone operators who fly, or are thinking of learning to fly, beyond their visual line of sight (BVLOS).

CASA seeks feedback on the proposed aeronautical knowledge standards and associated guide supporting an examination to authorise beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations, outside of controlled airspace (OCTA). This is an alternative to the current requirement to pass the instrument rating exam (IREX) – an exam originally designed for crewed aviation.

The proposed BVLOS OCTA exam would:

  • act as an alternative pathway from the IREX for BVLOS operations outside of controlled airspace
  • be the first step in a broader BVLOS licensing framework.

This exam is part of a larger body of work to future proof the Australian remotely piloted aviation industry, as outlined in the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) and Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) Strategic Regulatory Roadmap.

The proposed release of the BVLOS OCTA aeronautical knowledge standards and guide, which will be incorporated later into the Part 101 Manual of Standards, will provide easier access to tailored industry training courses specific to BVLOS.

To enable industry access to the proposed BVLOS OCTA exam sooner, we propose to finalise the BVLOS OCTA aeronautical knowledge standards and guide and make the documents formally available after review and relevant amendment, following public consultation feedback. The standards, guide and the exam would be supported by an instrument made for subparagraph 101.300 (4) (a) (iii) of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998 (CASR), before the standards are incorporated into the Part 101 Manual of Standards (MOS) in the future.

A pass in the theoretical exam would provide a person with a BVLOS OCTA pass (a pass credit), which would permit them to operate in compliance with a remotely piloted aircraft operator’s certificate (ReOC) holders’ procedures and conduct BVLOS operations OCTA. The ReOC holder must hold an approval to operate BVLOS under regulation 101.029 of CASR.

Principal changes that would occur

Once the standards and guide are published:

  • training organisations will be able to create training programs to develop candidate knowledge to a level that will prepare the candidate to pass the exam
  • candidates who wish to self-study can use the aeronautical knowledge standards
  • the exam will be available through the existing Pilot Examination Office (PEXO) system already in use across Australia
  • they will become part of a larger integrated RePL framework as proposed in the CASA RPAS and AAM strategic roadmap.

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