What Size Drone Requires a Licence?

April 24

Drones have quickly become one of the world’s most important pieces of technology. Pilots fly drones for fun, but they’re also widely used in construction, engineering, mining, agriculture and much more.

The versatility of drones has spawned thousands of variants. Whatever you need a drone to do, it’s possible to buy a platform that’s tailored to your needs.

This also means that drones come in all shapes and sizes. From tiny recreational drones through to large, long-range aircraft, you could find yourself operating a huge range of RPAs, and knowing which licences you need is a challenge.

In this article, we’ll look at what size drone requires a licence, and the circumstances where you can operate a drone without a licence.


Sizing and Licence Requirements

You are typically required to hold a Remote Pilots Licence (RePL) to fly a drone weighing 2kg or more for commercial purposes. If you fly a drone weighing 2kg or more for work, you are also required to operate under a Remote Operator’s Certificate (ReOC).

You are not required to hold a drone licence to fly a consumer drone for fun or sport. You are not required to hold a drone licence to fly an excluded category drone.

Drone platforms and missions vary widely. Whether or not you need to hold a licence depends on several factors, including:

  • The weight of the drone
  • How the drone is being used (e.g. commercial vs personal purposes)
  • The conditions of the mission
  • Whether you are operating over your own land
  • Whether you are being paid for your work

If you are flying without a licence, there are strict requirements about the weight of your drone, as well as where, when and why you can fly.

It’s a good idea to obtain your RePL, even if you’re flying for fun. An RePL course provides the training and hands-on experience you need to pilot a drone safely while complying with CASA’s regulations. This avoids the risks that come from flying without a licence, and it allows you to operate your drone under a much wider range of conditions.


Do I Need a RePL Sub 25kg Rating?

Commercial drone platforms can weigh substantially more than 2kg. Especially once they’re fitted with cameras, sensors, cargo and additional equipment.
A standard RePL qualification allows you to pilot drones weighing up to 7kg. If you want to fly a heavier drone for commercial purposes, you’ll need to upgrade your licence with a sub 25kg rating. RePL 25kg training provides hands-on experience with larger drone platforms, such as DJI’s Matrice 600.
For those wanting to fly heavier drones (such as crop spraying drones), you may need a sub 150kg rating.


Excluded Category Drones

CASA is working to reduce the regulatory requirements surrounding small drone platforms and low-risk missions. You typically don’t need to hold a drone licence to pilot an excluded category drone for commercial purposes.

This means you can fly a micro RPA (weighing less than 250g) or a very small RPA (weighing less than 2kg) for business or as part of your job without a drone licence. Under the excluded category, you can also fly drones up to 150kg over your own land, provided you do not accept payment for your services.

Excluded category drones are ideal for businesses that want to operate small drones without the red tape. This includes applications like:

  • Photography and videography
  • Real estate photography
  • Assessing buildings during construction
  • Equipment inspections
  • Land research

If you are operating your drone for business purposes, you may be required to hold an Operator Accreditation. Accreditation is free and can be completed online. While flying under an Operator Accreditation, you are required to comply with CASA’s standard operating conditions.


When Do I Need a Remote Operator’s Certificate?

A Remote Operator’s Certificate (ReOC) is issued to the person or business that offers professional drone services. You are required to hold an ReOC if:

  • You are piloting a drone that weighs 2kg or more, and/or;
  • You want to fly outside CASA’s standard operating conditions

A drone licence and ReOC are separate qualifications. You may be required to hold one, both or neither to fly a drone for commercial purposes.

Speak to the team at UAV Training if you are unsure about whether you need a licence or ReOC. We can assess your situation and help you figure out which qualifications your business needs.


What Happens if I Fly Without a Drone Licence?

Drones pose a genuine risk to the operator, members of the public, structures and other aircraft. As such, CASA’s regulations are strictly enforced. CASA has the power to issue fines of up to $1,565 per offence, and they may cancel your accreditation, licence or drone registration.

For bigger offences (such as interfering with other aircraft), you may be summoned to court. If that happens, you face fines of up to $37,901. You can also be convicted of a criminal offence and sent to jail for a period of up to 2 years.

The risk of operating without a drone licence and appropriate training is significant. We strongly recommend that all pilots obtain a drone licence, regardless of whether you’re flying for leisure or for work.

Unsure Which Licences You need? Talk to UAV Training Australia!

While CASA is working to simplify the regulations surrounding drones, it can still be a challenge to figure out which licences, qualifications and ratings you need. If you’re struggling to make sense of things, give the team at UAV Training a call!

UAV Training Australia is a leading provider of drone licensing courses. We offer everything from entry-level RePL courses to sub 25kg training, night operations and advanced courses for commercial pilots.

If you want to start flying drones for work or for your employer, we can put together a package that includes all the training you’ll need. We will ensure you have all the qualifications you need to comply with CASA and operate drones safely.

You can browse our courses online at any time, or contact our training consultants if you need help selecting the right training package!

You may also like

How Much Do Drone Pilots Make

How Much Do Drone Pilots Make

Let’s start a conversation

Talk to one of our experts today.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.