What’s the difference between a drone, RPA, RPAS, UAS, UAV and unmanned aircraft?

These all basically mean the same thing. Drone is the term the general public knows and understands. Unfortunately, it also has negative connotations due to it’s name coming from weapon-carrying unmanned aircraft used in recent wars.
RPAS, or remotely piloted aircraft systems, is the official term for drones that has been adopted by CASA and used in Australia’s aviation legislation. RPAS includes the remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), remote pilot station, command and control data-link, and launch and retrieval systems.

UAS (unmanned aerial systems) and UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) are also other terms used to describe RPA/drones. UAV was a common term used before the legislation changes in 2016. The term ‘unmanned aircraft’ refers to any pilotless aircraft, and in Australia’s legislation includes RPAS, free flight balloons and rockets.

What is an RePL?

All remote pilots that work under an ReOC, and those intended to operate medium Excluded RPA (25kg up to 150kg) for agricultural purposes etc., must hold a Remote Pilot Licence (RePL). The RePL was previously called a UAV Controllers Certificate. Remote Aviation Australia offers RPAS training so you can obtain your RePL.
Once issued by CASA, the RePL will list any conditions or restrictions that apply to the holder. Examples include the category of RPA/UAV you are permitted to fly (for other than recreational purposes), such as multirotor, helicopter or aeroplane (fixed-wing) and any weight limitations. For RPA weighing less than 25 kg, a generic grouping is endorsed on the RePL, such as “multirotor <7kg” or “aeroplane <25kg”. After obtaining your initial RePL qualification, additional privileges can be obtained by conducting ‘operational’ training by an approved training provider, such as Remote Aviation Australia.
For people new to the industry the terms ReOC and RePL can be very confusing and used incorrectly. The easiest way to understand it is the ReOC (RPA Operators Certificate) is the certification a business (including sole trader) or organisation requires. On the other hand, the RePL (Remote Pilot Licence) is what individual RPA, or UAV, pilots need to have to operate drones commercially while working for the ReOC holder. If you intend to work for a company that operates RPA, all you need is an RePL. However, if you want to set up your own drone business, you will require an ReOC (for the business) and an RePL (for you – the pilot).

What is an ReOC?

An ReOC, or RPA Operators Certificate, is like the air operator’s certificate (AOC) used for traditional manned aviation operations. ReOCs were formally known as UAV Operator Certificates (UOC), and are still commonly referred to as these. The ReOC authorises the holder to conduct included RPA operations for commercial purposes. The types of RPA, and any specific conditions, are endorsed on this certificate and any “instruments” of approval provided by CASA.
For people new to the industry the terms ReOC and RePL can be very confusing and used incorrectly. The easiest way to understand it is the ReOC (RPA Operators Certificate) is the certification a business (including sole trader) or organisation requires. On the other hand, the RePL (Remote Pilot Licence) is what individual RPA pilots need to have to operate drones commercially while working for the ReOC holder. If you intend to work for a company that operates RPA, all you need is an RePL. However, if you want to set up your own drone business, you will require an ReOC (for the business) and an RePL (for you – the pilot).
You do not need to complete a training course to obtain an ReOC. However, you need to apply to CASA and go through an approval process for your business to be issued its operating certificate. Remote Aviation Australia offers free consulting to any of our students wanting to apply to CASA for an ReOC.

What is an AROC, and do I need one?

An AROC is an aeronautical radio operators certificate. It is the qualification aviation professionals need to make aeronautical radio calls. Obtaining your AROC is vital for any RPA operator serious about their career. For example, if an RePL holder does not have, as a minimum, an AROC, they cannot fly within 3nm of the movement area of the controlled aerodrome, no matter the height of the RPA. You will also be restricted if you want to fly an RPA 2kg or heavier, such as a DJI Inspire, for commercial purposes at any height in controlled airspace (even if the rules normally allow you to fly below 400 feet in controlled airspace). Restrictions like this will limit the jobs you can complete and make you uncompetitive as an RPA pilot.

We include AROC training on most of our courses. The exception is our cheaper weekend course, which does not include AROC training. However, we strongly recommend you spend the extra money and invest in the AROC qualification.

Do I need any previous experience?

No. Previous drone/RPAS flying experience is not required to undertake our course. Approximately 50% of our course participants have never flown a drone before – we’re very used to assisting inexperienced people on our courses (we’ll take good care of you!).

Why should I train with Remote Aviation Australia?

It’s funny, just about every drone school claims to be the “leaders” or be the biggest or the best. All we’ll say is do your research carefully because you’re investing significant money into your career.

We have three objectives for our RPAS training. We will always provide:
• Expert advice – our instructors are industry leaders with thousands of hours of flying manned and unmanned aircraft. Our big difference is our people.
• Flexible training options – because everyone learns differently and not everyone can attend a full-time training course.
• Excellent value training – everything you need to become certified at a very competitive price. Flexible payment options are also available.

Please take the time to read the “Our Training” and “Our Instructors” pages of our website for more information about why flying with Remote Aviation Australia is an excellent investment in your career.

What is the Certificate III in Aviation (Remote Pilot - Visual Line of Sight)?

The Certificate III in Aviation (Remote Pilot) course has been developed in partnership with Aviation Australia and designed in line with the competencies developed by the Industry Skills Council. It is the highest qualification available for those wishing to enter the unmanned industry and begin operating drones for business purposes. In addition to the Certificate III in Aviation (Remote Pilot) vocational qualification, course participants will graduate with Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) industry licences – the Remote Pilot Licence (RePL) and Aeronautical Radio Operator’s Certificate (AROC). The course goal is for graduates to be “job ready” by obtaining the necessary CASA industry licences, practising tasks in a number of workplace scenarios, and developing the skills, knowledge and attitudes to succeed in this emerging industry.

What is the advantage of the Certificate III training?

The Certificate III in Aviation – Remote Pilot training provides extra flying that places the student in a number of workplace scenarios that go far beyond normal RePL training. These scenarios will allow students to experience real-life job tasks under the guidance of our experienced unmanned pilots. The scenarios will take the student from initial flight and risk management planning, through to flying the task, and reviewing the quality of their work after landing. We also introduce aerial photography and mapping techniques, which isn’t covered in a normal remote pilot course. There is also a strong focus on developing our student’s non-technical skills, such as communication, teamwork, decision making and situational awareness. We’ve taken the knowledge and experience gained from our aviation careers, such as crew resource management and threat and error management, and applied it to RPAS operations.

Do I need the Certificate III to work in the industry?

The Certificate III isn’t mandatory – the minimum qualification to work as a certified remote pilot is the Remote Pilot Licence (RePL). However, there are many advantages to obtaining a vocational qualification, such as the Certificate III in Aviation (Remote Pilot – Visual Line of Sight). As mentioned in the FAQ above, our Certificate III training provides extra flying that places students in workplace scenarios that go far beyond normal RePL training.

Vocational training programs generally focus on teaching students how to perform specific tasks that would be required in their actual job. By gaining this know-how through their Certificate III studies, these students are instantly put into an advantageous position when looking for work because they have already put the theory of their chosen field of study into practice. For the most part, basic RePL courses don’t offer this and focuses on basic flying skills.

Overall, our course goal is for graduates to be “job ready” by providing the best of both worlds. Students will obtain the necessary CASA industry licences, and through vocational training develop the skills, knowledge and attitudes to succeed in the unmanned aviation industry.

Does Remote Aviation Australia issue the Certificate III qualification?

Aviation Australia, our industry partner, will issue the Certificate III, and Remote Aviation will issue the RePL and AROC through CASA. Aviation Australia’s AVI30316 Certificate III in Aviation (Remote Pilot – Visual Line of Sight) is delivered under a third party agreement by Remote Aviation Australia.

Another training provider says their RePL course will let me fly at night. Is this true?

Yes and no. Their course is not unique – all RePL training courses will provide you with the initial qualification to fly at night – the Remote Pilot Licence. However, you cannot simply just start flying your drone at night once you obtain your RePL. You must also work for an ReOC holder that has been approved, under CASA exemption 103/16, to fly at night.

Therefore, an RePL course does not provide the pilot with the qualification to fly at night – the ReOC holder must train and assess its employees to do this.

Another school claims online theory training won't prepare me properly. Is this true?

No, this is just an opinion as they have not used our learning management system to provide theory training via distance education. We have worked hard to develop a number of video-based lectures and tools to ensure you don’t miss out on any information you would have received in the classroom. Remember too, universities have been providing this method of learning for a long-time – distance learning is nothing new.

After you enrol in our online course, we mail out a student pack containing a 230-page textbook, a work book and an aeronautical chart. The work book gives you a number of exercises to complete, further improving your knowledge and flight planning skills. We are also only a phone call or email away if you have any questions about the theory.

On the first day of our 2-day course, we also take a break from flying to provide a revision session, review your workbook answers, and take any additional questions you may have.

The proof is in the pudding – we have a 100% pass rate with our online theory students. We have actually seen an improvement in knowledge and pass rates because our online students can review the content thoroughly at their own pace over a number of weeks.

What is the minimum age for an RePL?

The legislation or current CASA advisory material does not specify an age limit to apply for an RePL. However, the theoretical content is aimed at a level of knowledge and comprehension of a person that has completed year 10. With this in mind, the minimum age of someone Remote Aviation Australia will accept on a course is 15.

Any person aged under 18 will also require the permission from a parent or guardian to attend. To cater for these younger students, a number of procedures have been adopted to ensure compliance with Queensland’s Child and Youth Risk Management Strategy.

Parents or guardians are welcome to stay and monitor their child’s progress during our training courses.

The minimum age to hold an Aeronautical Radio Operator’s Certificate (AROC) is 17. This is a CASA requirement. If you are aged under 17, you are welcome to undertake the AROC training, then complete the assessment when you turn 17. Otherwise, the AROC training is not a mandatory component of the RePL course and you can choose not to complete it.

I am an existing manned aviation pilot (or air traffic controller). Do I need to complete the full RPAS course to obtain my RePL?

Completing the full RPAS course is one option to obtain your RePL, but not one we’d recommend. The regulations allow your aviation experience to count towards the requirements for an RePL, saving you time and money.

As long as you have the minimum of a Recreational Pilots Licence, all you need to do is complete operational (practical) RPA/UAV flying training, and log five hours flying experience. You then send Form 101-01 off to CASA to process, and they will issue you a remote pilot licence.

Remote Aviation Australia can complete your operational training using multirotor RPA. We also give you access to our online theory course.

You can read more about licence conversions here.

Do you offer part-time courses?

Yes. We understand some people need flexible training options. Therefore, we offer online theory training that you can complete at a time that suits you. The next step is to complete the five hours of operational (practical flying) and the exams. Dates for the operational training and exams are available on our Courses page.

If you still prefer lecture-based learning, you are welcome to ‘split’ your training and complete the operational training on another of our flying days that suits you better.

What are your flexible payment options?

Instead of paying the full cost of the course upfront, you have the option to pay a deposit (usually 50%) to secure your enrolment. Another payment installment is required just prior to training. You do not need to pay the remainder of the course fee until after you have completed your training.

However, we cannot process your RePL application to CASA until we have received the remainder of your course payment.

If you are completing a course with an online theory component, your course notes and training access will be provided once we receive your deposit.

What do I need to complete online training?

Once you’ve enrolled in the online course, you will be given access to our training. The course can be completed on any computer or tablet. All you need is a connection to the internet, a web browser and speakers. Much of the online training involves video presentations – please ensure you are connected to a suitable data source to avoid expensive data charges, and your computer has speakers/headphones.

Is it true I can operate for commercial gain without certification (i.e. the sub-2kg rules)?

Yes, you can but you need to stick to a strict set of guidelines (known as the standard operating conditions) and can’t fly anything that weighs 2kg or more. This is known as an “Excluded RPA” operation. This suits some operators, but not everyone.

Please see our Drone Certification page for more information about Excluded RPA, and whether it may be suitable for your business plans or not. We have also written a blog about the topic.

I’ve been told I need to pass the Private Pilots Licence (PPL) exam to get my drone licence. Is this true?

No. This was a very old requirement before CASA started approving RPAS training schools. For manned aviation pilots, if they have passed an aviation exam, such as the PPL exam, the can undertake a streamlined process to obtain their RePL that recognises their prior learning.

However, for anyone without aviation qualifications we do not recommend this training path that involves passing a manned aviation exam. The course content will be irrelevant to unmanned flying, be more difficult to pass the exam, and will most likely take you longer to complete. Completing an RPAS training course is a much easier, appropriate, and potentially cheaper process.

Some websites say there is an Unrestricted and Restricted Licence. Is this still the case?

No. Previously these were licence options, but have not been the case for a long time. When you complete your RPAS training with Remote Aviation Australia, you will receive an RePL that is endorsed with either “multirotor <7kg” or “aeroplane <7kg”, depending on the category of RPA you flew during training.

What should I bring with me to the course?

We will provide you with a full set of course notes. However, please bring along note taking materials, such as pens and a notepad, and food to eat throughout the day. For the practical flying days, please bring food, water and suitable sun protection. We’ll give you a Remote Aviation Australia hat – please bring it along!

A fridge and microwave is not always available for the theoretical days, and never available for the practical flying days. Therefore, please bring food that does not require heating, and bring a small cooler bag if your food must be kept cool.

Can I bring my own drone to the course?

You cannot fly your own drone during the training – all course flying needs to be completed in one of Remote Aviation’s fully-insured aircraft.

However, you may bring your own drone for practice when not flying one of our aircraft. In this case, your drone will not be covered by our insurance (including public liability insurance), and the flying must not interrupt other course participants.

You may also bring your own drone if you have questions about it for our instructors.

How do I pay for the course?

Payments can be made via PayPal or direct deposit.

Do you offer discounted or corporate rates?

We will offer an excellent discounted rate for groups of four or more. If your organisation requires its employees to obtain remote pilot licences, please contact us and we will work out a very competitive price for you.

Can you offer a ‘closed’ training sessions for my employees only (i.e. no general public)?

Yes. We have completed a number of these courses for corporate clients.

We can offer courses for individual organisations at a time and place that suits you. We will tailor our training to suit your intended operations. We can also negotiate a corporate rate.

Do you charge GST?

We do not charge GST for initial RePL training. If you have already obtained an RePL, GST will be charged for any additional training you complete with us (such as 25kg operational training). This is based on a ruling from the Australian Tax Office.

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