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Drone approvals cut from weeks to seconds

 

An app-based approval system will be trialled by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and Airservices Australia, for the use of drones by commercial operators.

The initiative will see the trial cut approval times for remotely piloted aircraft from weeks down to seconds, according to a statement from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

The trial is expected to begin in late April and continue for six months across three designated aerodromes.

Airservices chief executive officer Jason Harfield said the initiative is the perfect compromise between authorities and operators.

“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,” Harfield said.

Partnering with the Queensland University of Technology, the initiative will allow for real time approvals where permissible, and will be delivered through the digital platform of CASA’s current remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS).

Komatsu Australia’s Smart Construction consultant James Mackenzie said he was relieved to see the approvals improved, providing multiple benefits for operators.

“It is great to see CASA making the first move to remove the red tape. It will relieve the workload on CASA staff who need to approve the flights as well as saving time and money for the sole trader pilots,” McKenzie said.

“In the past we experienced a loss of $900, spending hours to get approval only to find out after a couple of weeks that what we intended could not be achieved due to the restrictions CASA and the aerodrome operator set.”

When asked what other improvements ought to be made to the regulations, McKenzie said below visual line of sight restrictions (BVLOS) should be made more flexible.

Gavin Docherty, the marketing development manager for RPAS at Position Partners, an Australian service in surveying and civil contracting, said he is very pleased with the new system on behalf of his clients.

“It can be very important to the bottom line if long planning times are not possible for urgent project deliverables,” Docherty said.

“I would like to see a more streamlined process for general area approvals for remote operator certificate holders. This could easily be incorporated into a more comprehensive safety app such as AVCRM, which holds the most accurate airspace boundary data on the market.”

CASA’s acting chief executive officer and director of aviation safety Graeme Crawford said the initiative fulfilled another important goal for the authority.

“Moving to digital approval processes is a key initiative for CASA, streamlining interactions and making it easier for operators,” Crawford said.

Other key initiatives, as outlined on the CASA website, include goods services and delivery via drone, as well as other improvements to drone safety and the messaging surrounding it.