UAV Operator’s Certificate – Everything you need to know

So, you’ve gotten your Remote Pilot Licence (RePL), AVI30316 Certificate III in Aviation and AROC and you’re all set to start flying drones right?! Well yes and no. If you want to work for a company and fly drones for them, then YES you’re as qualified as possible to fly. However, if you want to start your own business flying drones commercially or integrate it into an existing business then you will need what’s called a UAV Operator’s Certificate.

What is a UAV Operators Certificate

Issued by CASA, the Operator’s Certificate (OC) allows a company to operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, more commonly known as drones. When this relates to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, we call this an Unmanned Operator’s Certificate or UOC. This certificate is very different to your Remote Pilot Licence in that it is not a qualification you can gain but rather a permission by CASA to operate UAVs as a business.

The UOC is issued to the company, not an individual. Once issued the UOC outlines the circumstances under which you will operate UAVs. This includes things like which types of UAVs you will operate, how you will maintain them, under what conditions you will operate and for what purposes.

It also identifies key roles within the organisation such as Chief Pilot, Maintenance Controller and any Pilots operating under the UOC.

When do I need one?

You will need an UOC if you:

  • Operate any UAV over 2kg in weight for commercial purposes other than some agricultural purposes
  • Wish to get approval to operate a UAV in restricted areas, controlled airspace or within 3nm of an aerodrome
  • Wish to get approval to operate UAVs above 400 feet or at night
  • Wish to obtain Public Liability insurance for your operations

Why have a UAV Operators Certificate?

As of the 29th of September 2016 you will be allowed to fly drones under 2 kgs commercially without certification. HOLD UP! Before you go and drop over $2000 on a brand new Phantom let’s have a look at the big picture and see how not having an OC will impact your operations.

No Insurance!

It’s as simple as this, without an OC you will not be able to get public liability insurance. So why does that matter? Well if you are flying and something happens like you’re drone falls out of the sky and hits someone or something, you can get sued. Public liability insurance is there to protect you so your personal assets aren’t at risk but, without it, you could potentially lose your house because of a brief lapse of judgement.

No Exemptions

While operating commercially, you may be asked to fly in areas that are restricted by regulations like near an airport of above 400ft. If you have an OC you are able to get blanket approvals or apply for an approval for that flight. If you aren’t certified you have no such ability and are therefore strongly held in the regulations.

Will UAVAIR help me write my OC?

No. We know there are people out there that will ask you to pay for help writing your OC but the reality is that you don’t need it if you are trained properly. As late as last year it was different, writing and obtaining an OC was complicated, expensive and took a long time. Our OC application took over 6 months and cost in excess of $6000 even though we wrote it ourselves.

Due to streamlined processes from CASA, however, this process is much easier to navigate and in short we don’t feel the need to take your money to complete it.

The key changes that make the process so much simpler are:

  • Having pre-filled templates in the application
  • Having your flight test with us now approved as the UOC flight test
  • A reduction in the cost (We’ve heard as little as $800)
  • A reduction in the processing time

This has made it much easier for someone to start a drone business. As a result, we don’t think it’s fair to charge you for what should be a fairly smooth process if you are trained in UAV Operations well. Our Certificate III Course covers a lot of detail about UAV Operations that helps you in this process, and many of our students have gone on to complete their OC’s without any extra assistance.

Combined with subsidised training in some states of Australia the cost of setting up a full insured and effective drone business has become far less expensive than in the past. If you’d like to learn more about the UAV industry give us a call on 1300 893 340.