September 29, 2021
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New Regulations for Reporting RPA Safety Incidents

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has announced a new set of regulations (Transport Safety Investigation Regulations 2021) to replace the current regulations which have stood since 2003 and the focus of this change is reporting accurately on incidents involving RPAs. The ATSB has set out to gather more information about safety occurrences involving RPAs to support safety outcomes in the future and provide more useful data to the emerging industry.

“RPAs are an emerging form of commercial aviation that will benefit from investigation into systemic safety issues to help prevent future accidents” were the words offered by ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell. He continued to say that “The Recognition of transport safety issues associated with the operation of RPAs, will be a welcome development, and provide greater certainty for commercial operators and enthusiasts alike.”

What does this mean for RPA / Drone operators?

Well, starting from 30 September 2021, operators will be required to comply with the new regulations which means reporting safety incidents depending on the category and the incident itself.

To support the wide variety of RPAs used in the industry, new categories for RPAs will be used by the ATSB in gathering information. Type 1 applies to all Large (150kg+) and Medium (25kg – <150kg) with Type 2 applying to drones under 25kg that are not in the excluded or micro categories.

Type 1 RPAs (25-150kg and 150kg+) will need to report incidents immediately where there was;

·       death or serious injury;

·       accidents;

·       loss of a separation standard with the aircraft; and,

·       serious damage to property.

Other less serious incidents will need to be reported within 72 hours.

Type 2 RPAs (<25kg) will generally only need to be immediately reported in cases of death or serious injury, with all other reports occurring within 72 hours.

The ATSB published this checklist to help understand what your new reporting obligations are:

Source: ATSB

As an Australian ReOC holder, do I need to update my operations manuals?

Best practice would be to update your manuals however, the instrument only specifies that you must follow it. Also, as an RPA operator it’s prudent to have policies about your regulatory obligations and updating your manuals to reflect this change would make your commitment to regulatory compliance clear.

In more detail, since reporting will be mandatory for RPA operators, you’ll need to ensure your manuals accurately detail how and when to make reports to the ATSB so that your organization is always complying with regulatory requirements. Interpreting these changes and providing practical solutions is part of how Hover UAV can help your organisation. Please contact Hover UAV if you’d like to discuss how we can assist you to keep up to date with changes in the regulation. 

How do I report?

You can make a report through the ATSB website,

How do I interpret what is immediate or routine?

Some of the reasons why you would need to make a report may seem like they’re a bit open to interpretation but, having read the proposed instrument, Hover UAV can assure you there are specific guidelines for these reasons.

For example, serious property damage is defined by damage to property outside of the aircraft that:

a)    is caused by:

i.     contact with any part of the aircraft, including anything that is attached to the aircraft or that has become detached from the aircraft or

ii.     direct exposure to jet blast, propeller wash or rotor downwash from the aircraft; and

b)    that would cost at least $25000 to repair or replace.

If you have concerns over how you’re going to interpret what needs to be reported, and about how your own operations manuals and procedures may be impacted, the good news is Hover UAV can help your organisation navigate these changes. Contact Hover UAV to discuss how we can help support your RPA operations through this change.


I just fly for fun or in the excluded category, do I still need to report?

If you’re flying casually it’s pretty unlikely you’re flying something that isn’t in the excluded or micro category. This includes popular drones like the DJI Phantom, Mavic or Mini series. You can read more about what category your drone is on CASA’s website. The instrument doesn’t contain any language specifically excluding people who fly for fun, over their own land or with an RPA operator accreditation as opposed to RePL license holders and is focused mainly on the type of drone you fly.

It’s important to work out if your drone fits into the Type 1 or Type 2 ATSB reporting category, or if it’s not included in either type. If you’re not included in either type, at this time, you don’t need to report.

Read more about this announcement on the ATSB’s website.

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