Proposed charges for drone, or remotely piloted aircraft, regulatory services

Closed 13 Sep 2020

Opened 25 Aug 2020

Feedback Updated 28 Sep 2020

We Asked

From 25 August to 13 September 2020 we invited public comment on proposed charges for drone regulatory services, including:

  • an initial fee-free registration period for commercial drones registered before 30 June 2021
  • the introduction of a simplified fee structure for other commercial drone services.

The consultation asked you to comment on changes from an hourly rate charge to fixed fees for some services, continued hourly rate charges for complex commercial drone operations, a $0 drone registration fee and whether you thought our estimates of the expected volume and demand for services from commercial drone operations over the next five years reflected the available data.

You Said

CASA appreciates the contributions made by respondents and acknowledges that their feedback has been beneficial to the consultation process. The consultation received responses from 262 individuals or organisations—including 162 remote pilot licence (RePL) holders and 108 remotely piloted aircraft operator’s certificate (ReOC) holders.

60 per cent of respondents reported operating a very small drone (2 kg or less) and 35 per cent of respondents reported operating a small drone (between 2 kg and 25 kg) – approximately 3 per cent operate a drone more than 25 kg.

Responses were largely supportive of the proposed initial fee-free registration period, with 77 per cent of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing they support the proposal. Some respondents partially supported the proposed fees and fewer did not support any element of the proposal at all.

Many agreed or strongly agreed (53 per cent) that the simplified fee structure provided greater certainty of business costs. Fewer (33 per cent) agreed or strongly agreed it would reduce administrative burden on their business when applying for CASA services, while 30 per cent neither agreed nor disagreed.

40 per cent of respondents reported they disagree or strongly disagree that the simplified fee structure would result in cost savings for their business. A smaller proportion neither agreed nor disagreed (34 per cent), while 6 per cent reported they didn’t know if it would result in costs savings for their business.   

Most respondents (58 per cent) reported they did not know if the proposed fees reflected the estimated demand for services and volume of commercial operators in Australia – 23 per cent agreed.

Consultation feedback highlighted that some elements of the registration and accreditation process were unclear, including how to deregister a drone if it is sold or damaged beyond repair and if unused drones are required to be registered. Other feedback included specific questions about future fees, exemptions for some operators and partial refunds for deregistered drones.

We Did

In response to the consultation, CASA will introduce a fee waiver for commercial drones registered before 30 June 2021, allowing for a $0 drone registration fee.

Registration will open on 30 September 2020 and be required by 28 January 2021. It will be valid for 12 months from the date of registration.

Any future registration fees, exemptions and refunds will be considered in early 2021, at which point you will be consulted accordingly on any proposed fees.

More information about the registration and accreditation requirements and the process is now available on our website – casa.gov.au/drones

The Cost Recovery Implementation Statement (CRIS) will be published after the Australian Government’s consideration and its deliberations on the future funding arrangements for CASA. This will include consideration of fixed fees for other RPAS related regulatory services.

Overview

We're seeking your views on the proposed charges for drone, or remotely piloted aircraft, services. 

Background

In July 2019, the Australian Government passed legislation to introduce mandatory remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) registration and operator accreditation. This is in addition to existing certification, licensing, flight authorisations and record keeping requirements for commercial, micro and excluded category RPA operators.

Registration and operator accreditation for drone, or remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), flown for commercial or business use – any operation other than sport or recreation – will:

  • open on 30 September 2020
  • be required by 28 January 2021.

What are the proposed charges?

Following the introduction of a range of online services, CASA is proposing a change to the current regulatory service fees, including changes from an hourly rate charge to fixed fees for some services, creating a simpler and clearer fee structure.

The proposed charges, include:

  • an initial fee-free registration period for commercial drones or RPA registered before 30 June 2021
  • introduction of a simplified fee structure for other drone or RPA services.
Description of drone services Current charge type Average historical charge Proposed charge type Proposed charge Change
Remote pilot licence (RePL): initial issue or variation Hourly rate ($160) $40 Fixed fee $17
Remotely piloted aircraft operator certificate (ReOC): initial issue Hourly rate ($160) $1229 Fixed fee $1175
ReOC: renewal Hourly rate ($160) $480 Fixed fee $114
ReOC: variation Hourly rate ($160) $471 Fixed fee $409
Approval of operation of unmanned aircraft or rocket: reissue of instrument Hourly rate ($160) $329 Fixed fee $312
Approval of operation of unmanned aircraft or rocket Hourly rate ($160) $773 Fixed fee $875
Approval of operation of unmanned aircraft: near a non-controlled areodrome Hourly rate ($160) $773 Fixed fee $875
RPA registration (per RPA, annually)     New levy $0
Key: = reduced = increased = new charge 

 

From 30 September 2020 until 30 June 2021 the new RPA registration levy will be set at $0. The Australian Government will reconsider the pricing of the charge in early 2021, at which point you will be consulted accordingly.

A range of other drone services will continue to be charged at an hourly rate.

For all complex RPA operations, the hourly rate will be charged at $190. We will send you an estimate of what it will cost, following a request for these services: 

  • approval of operation of a large RPA (>150 kg)
  • permission to operate beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS)
  • re-issue of permision to operate BVLOS
  • approval of risk assessment workshops for complex operations.

Certification (or variation) of a person to conduct RePL training will continue to be charged at the hourly rate of $160.

The proposed charges are based on expected volume and demand for services from commercial, micro and excluded category RPA operators in Australia, over the next five years. This has been calculated on an estimated volume of 8,000 commercial and 32,000 micro and excluded RPA and accounts for seven per cent growth in the sector annually over five years.

CASA is committed to reviewing these charges annually, or as new data becomes available, to ensure they accurately reflect the cost of delivering these services and take into consideration the expected growth and innovation in the sector.

CASA has analysed client data to demonstrate the effect of the proposed RPA registration levy and amendments to regulatory fees for typical commercial RPA operators, comparing current charges with the proposed charges for actual client operations. They have been deidentified for publication, see the cost comparison infographic: typical commercial and excluded RPA operator scenarios.

Your questions answered

More Information

The introduction of online services and automation of manual processes has reduced the need for CASA personnel to manually process RPA registrations and some licence applications and renewals which has contributed to the overall reduction in many regulatory fees. Changes to how other RPAS regulatory fees are calculated (fixed fee versus hourly rate) has also contributed to these reductions.

Expansion of online services via the myCASA portal will continue to deliver efficiencies and reduce the overall costs of delivering these services.

More Information

Regulatory fees that are either a fixed amount or a set hourly rate reflect the cost of CASA personnel or systems to deliver these services or activities.

More Information

Development of the RPAS digital platform allows industry, businesses and software providers to connect to a central source of trusted data, to develop new and innovative mobile and web-based applications for commercial operations and fleets. There are currently four mobile or web-based applications available.

The Client Services Centre is available from Monday to Friday 8:30am to 5:00pm (AEST), excluding national public holidays. CASA's virtual assistant is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help answer user’s questions and RPA related enquiries.

Education and safety promotion are a key area of investment for CASA, including industry engagement via Technical Working Groups and event participation and sponsorship, distribution of drone safety collateral and regular news and updates via CASA’s email subscription service.

Surveillance is also an important part of CASA’s role.

Why We Are Consulting

The Australian Government’s overarching cost recovery policy is that, where appropriate, recipients of government services should be charged some or all the costs of those activities. For more information, see the Australian Government Charging Framework.

CASA is required to apply this policy to its regulatory charging activities, including issuing certificates, licences, accreditations, flight authorisations and aircraft registrations.

Regulatory fees ensure the cost of administration and regulation is applied to those who directly use the services, rather than the Australian public.

What is CASA seeking my opinion on?

This consultation is seeking your opinion on the proposed charges:

  • an initial fee-free registration period for drones, or RPA, registered before 30 June 2021
  • introduction of fixed fees for other drone regulatory services
  • maintaining an hourly rate charge for complex operations and RePL training applications.

This consultation does not include:

  • drones or model aircraft that are flown for fun (sport or recreation)
  • model aircraft being flown at CASA-approved model airfields
  • the registration and accreditation law (or the standard operating conditions).

Consultation on the proposed policy occurred in February 2019. The registration levy for recreational drones and model aircraft will be consulted in the future.

More information

For more information about the arrangements for cost recovery or how the charges are calculated, see the Cost Recovery Implementation Statement: RPAS Regulatory Charges (draft for consultation). It should be read in conjunction with the Australian Government Charging Framework and The Charging Framework, administered by the Department of Finance.

What Happens Next

  • Registration and operator accreditation will open 30 September 2020 and be required by 28 January 2021
  • All drones, or remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), flown for commercial or business use (any operation other than sport or recreation) must be registered, regardless of its weight
  • If you’re operating a drone, or RPA, for commercial or business use you must obtain an RPA operator accreditation or a remote pilot licence (RePL)
  • Penalties may apply from 28 January 2021, if you operate:
    • an unregistered drone, or RPA, for commecial or business use
    • without a valid RPA operator accreditation or RePL 
  • You do not need an accreditation certificate if you hold a RePL or if you’re only flying for fun (sport or recreation)
  • Drone, or model aircraft, registration and operator accreditation for people flying for fun (sport or recreation) will open in March 2022. The registration levy for recreational drones and model aircraft will be consulted on at a later date.

Audiences

  • Drone operator
  • Foreign operator

Interests

  • Drones / unmanned aircraft systems