ReOC: how to get your drone business certified
In this article we’ll discuss how your business can obtain an ReOC and become certified to operate drones (or more correctly, Remotely Piloted Aircraft – RPA). But before we discuss the certification process, it’s important to review what the ReOC is, and why is it important.
The ReOC, or RPA Operator’s Certificate, authorises the holder (i.e. a business or organisation) to conduct RPA operations for aerial work (i.e. business or non-recreational) purposes. This differs from the Remote Pilot Licence (RePL), which is the certification individual remote pilots receive. It’s very similar to certification the manned aviation world. For example, Qantas is approved by CASA (the Civil Aviation Safety Authority) to conduct commercial flights, and individual pilots are also required to hold pilot’s licences. To sum up, the ReOC is the approval an organisation receives, whereas the RePL is for individual employees.
After obtaining your RePL, unless you want to operate in the Excluded RPA category (i.e. the sub-2kg rules), you will need to work for a business that holds an ReOC, or apply to CASA for your own ReOC. There are many advantages to becoming certified and working for a ReOC holder (or obtaining your own). These include:
- The ability to operate RPA weighing 2kg or more (which may give you the option to use more sophisticated cameras and equipment);
- No longer having to adhere to the “Standard Operating Conditions”. This means you may be able to fly at night, within 30 metres of people, in restricted areas (such as Sydney Harbour and major events), and closer to aerodromes/helicopter landing sites; and
- Access to improved public liability insurance, which not only will protect your livelihood if something goes wrong, but is a contract requirement for many clients.
To obtain an RePL, the applicant completes a theory and practical course from a CASA-approved training organisation (such as Remote Aviation Australia). However, to obtain an ReOC there is no actual training course. The business will need to undertake several steps to become certified by CASA. These include:
- Developing operations manuals for your business;
- Submitting these manuals to CASA;
- Nominating a Chief Remote Pilot for consideration; and
- A Chief Remote Pilot assessment (which includes a flight planning scenario and interview).
To get the process underway, we recommend the following steps:
- Thoroughly consider what types of activities you’d like to undertake and therefore what types (or models) of RPA will be suitable.
- Decide who will be the Chief Remote Pilot. This person is ultimately responsible for the organisation’s safe and legal operation of RPA. They will need to obtain an RePL before their assessment.
- Commence the development of your operations manual and library.
- Decide whether you’ll apply directly to CASA, or use a “delegate”.
Due to the growth of the unmanned industry and a large number of ReOC applications, it is taking CASA around four months (minimum, sometimes much longer) to process applications before the assessment even commences. However, to relieve the backlog, CASA recently appointed three industry delegates to work on their behalf to issue non-complex ReOCs. More about the delegates can be found at https://www.casa.gov.au/standard-page/casr-part-101-delegate-search.
The major advantage of using a delegate is the timeframe involved (they are currently approving ReOCs within a few weeks, which is much faster than CASA’s current 4-6 months). There will be no difference in the final outcome when using a delegate instead of CASA (CASA appoints delegates within the aviation industry as a whole to help manage their workload).
If you’re still reading this blog you have probably decided the ReOC is what’s needed for your organisation. Overall, there are three options available from here to obtain your ReOC:
Option 1: Remote Aviation can work with you to write your manuals (as part of our ReOC Assistance Package). Once they’re finished, we recommend you apply to a delegate to process your ReOC. We will provide interview preparation information and practice scenarios prior to your assessment. Our fee for the ReOC assistance package (writing manuals, interview prep and 12-months access to AVCRM flight planning software) is $895. The delegate, instead of CASA, will charge you directly (approximately $1600-$1800) to process you ReOC.
Option 2: As above, except you submit the paperwork to CASA directly, who will assess you. However, this will take significantly longer.
Option 3: Instead of taking up our ReOC Assistance Package you can use CASA’s templates to develop your own manuals, then you apply to the delegate or CASA directly. CASA has completed approximately 75% of the work for you by developing these templates. Nonetheless, if you decide to write your own manuals you’ll still need to develop and write a number of procedures, including specific RPAS operating procedures, checklists, your night flying training syllabus, and your different maintenance schedules. However, as mentioned in option 1, we can do all of this heavy lifting for you and develop customised manuals on your behalf as part of our ReOC Assistance Package.
The ReOC requirements and process can seem complicated at first, however, hopefully this blog has made the requirements more clear. If you have any questions about the ReOC process, or would like to take up Remote Aviation’s Assistance Package, please contact us.