May 1, 2024
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Operations Over or Near People with Drones

RPAS Operations Over or Near People

RPAS Regulatory Considerations for Operations Over or Near People

As the use of drones across industries continues to change the way operators approach their work, the need to use RPAs for a variety of purposes Over and Near people has become apparent. In this blog we’ll delve into the regulatory landscape and summarise the recent developments towards enabling Operations Over and Near People (OONP).

Regulations about Operations Over and Near People

RPAS Flights Over or Near People are regulated under Part 101 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations CASR 101.245 (operations near people) and CASR 101.280 (populous areas).

CASR 101.245 mandates a minimum distance of 30 meters between an RPA and any individual not directly involved in its operation. This distance is often thought of as a “dome” when it is actually a 30m radius cylinder that continues above the person indefinitely meaning you cannot operate over people even if you are more than 30m above them.  While this regulation sets a baseline standard, it does provide flexibility to RPA operators by allowing ReOC holders to operate less than 30m but greater than 15m from people with consent under CASR 101.245 (3) or the ability to apply for an approval under regulation 101.029 to bypass these restrictions.

CASR 101.280 mandates that a non-certified RPA is not operated over a populous area. A populous area is defined as an area that has sufficiency density of population for some aspect of the operation, or some event that might happen during the operation (in particular, a fault in, or failure of, the aircraft) to pose an unreasonable risk to the life, safety or property of somebody who is in the area but is not connected with the operation.

Under 101.280 (4), CASA may grant an approval to operate an RPA over a populous area provided certain conditions can be met. If these conditions cannot be met, an exemption to the regulation may be required.

Recent Developments from CASA

CASA has recently released a Temporary Management Instruction (TMI) Document that describes three pathways RPA operators can follow when seeking approvals for operations over or near people based on the scope and intent of the operation.

This document details the conditions under which CASA will assess an operator’s ability to conduct operations over or near people for each pathway. It also establishes the three pathways to approval and the scope of operations possible under each pathway. These pathways are:

  • Pathway 1 – Operations Near People with Active Participant Consent in a Controlled Environment with an MTOW of less than 25kg
  • Pathway 2 – Unlikely to cause serious harm upon impact – maximum 15 joules (or 34 joules is sheltered, have informed consent)
  • Pathway 3 – Specific Operational Risk Assessment (SORA) Based assessment -RPAS Operations Over or Near People without Consent and greater than 15 joules

CASA has also provided a means for operators to seek approval where their operations may not fall into any of the three pathways through meeting an acceptable level of safety and gaining approval by the Executive Manager (National Operations and Standards) and the Executive Manager (Regulatory Oversight Division).

New definitions are also provided in the TMI including Controlled Environment and Active Participants.

A controlled environment refers to the designated operational area which solely involves active participants. This strategic approach minimises ground risks akin to segregated airspace, with the operator assuming full responsibility for ensuring the absence of non-active participants.

Active participants are people who are participating directly in the activity to which the RPA is operated but is not directly associated with the operation of the RPA. This may include people who are performers or emergency services personnel.

Operations Over or Near People

Pathway 1 – Operations with consent in controlled environments

Pathway 1 relies on gaining written consent from any active participants and operating in a controlled environment. It provides the greatest flexibility in operations by not placing strict limits on distance from Active Participants or any limit on the KE of the RPA should it impact a person. To achieve this flexibility, Pathway requires the operator to gain and document consent and provides strict conditions for that consent and the operation to be considered valid.

The conditions for the operation are:

  • the operation is conducted in a controlled environment;
  • the operation is conducted by the holder of a ReOC;
  • the RPA weighs no more than 25 kg; and
  • active participants provide written consent for operations within 30 metres.

Since this pathway relies on gaining written consent, there are strict guidelines around how that consent is obtained that can be viewed in full within the TMI.

Pathway 1 is suitable for a variety of operations where the operator can gain written consent and/or needs to utilise heavier RPA or operate very closely to active participants. Examples include; Mining or Industrial sites, performances that involve RPA or film sets.

Pathway 2 – Operations with informed or no consent

Pathway 2 allows operators to conduct operations over or near people on the basis that an impact is unlikely to cause serious harm.

To conduct operations under Pathway 2 the operator must:

  • demonstrate the maximum Kinetic Energy transferred is less than 15 joules and protect people from lacerations; or
  • demonstrate the maximum Kinetic Energy transferred is less than 34 joules, protect people from lacerations and gain informed consent.

Note: Pathway 2 also allows emergency services organisations to operate with a maximum energy impact of up to 34 joules without obtaining informed consent.

Demonstrating the Kinetic Energy threshold can be achieved by calculating the energy on impact. It is likely, due the low threshold, RPAs will need to have a low MTOW (typically under 300g). Higher MTOW RPAs may be useable:

  • when the maximum speed of the system is limited in such a way the RP cannot accidentally override it
  • when fitted with an ASTM F3322-18 compliant parachute (certified through the AEB)
  • when sheltering would reduce the impact to the Kinetic Energy threshold.

More detail about meeting the Kinetic Energy threshold and the protection of people from lacerations can be viewed in full within the TMI.

Pathway 2 is ideal for scenarios like filming a specific event (e.g. Sports or concerts), inspecting assets in public spaces and disaster response.

Operations Over or Near People

Pathway 3 – SORA (Specific Operational Risk Assessment)

While Pathways 1 and 2 provide flexibility for the majority of operators, there are many emerging operators with more complex needs and use cases where operations over or near people may be only one part of their overall goal for an approval. The SORA based assessment allows these operators to put forward more complex cases where they may utilise larger RPAs or request larger operating areas and involve other complex activities like BVLOS operations. The conditions for Pathway 3 are:

  • the final SAIL of the SORA must not be greater than 4;
  • where a SORA assessment requires an OSO to be met under high or medium robustness (specifically OSOs, 2-6, 10, 12, 13, 18-20 and 24), this element of the SORA must be validated by the AEB (Airworthiness Engineering Branch).

When conducting a SORA safety case, an operator may use M1 and M2 mitigations in determining their final SAIL level. CASA have defined methods to demonstrate acceptable means of compliance for M1 and M2 which can be viewed in full within the TMI.

Operations Over or Near People

Additional Considerations for Flying Drones Over or Near People

Populous area

The use of any pathway does not negate the requirement for a populous area exemption if the area of operation may be considered populous.

Noise approval

Following the end of the grace period in July 2022, all RPA operators should have acquired a Nosie Approval. When conducting operations over or near people, operators should consider if their existing approval is appropriate and re-assess to determine if additional measures are required. operators can obtain this approval via


Privacy should also be considered and you should have awareness and an understanding of laws in your area and if your proposed flights have the potential to breach state and territory laws relating to privacy, trespass, harassment, intimidation, nuisance, and endangering safety. Links to particular laws can be found on the


Developing your CONOPS and operational procedures.

As drone operators navigate the complexities of regulations and considerations surrounding operations over or near people, it becomes imperative to take proactive steps toward ensuring safety, compliance, and operational efficiency. Defining your Concept of Operations (CONOPS) stands as a pivotal next step in this journey. By carefully outlining your operational procedures, risk mitigation strategies, and safety protocols, you can tailor your approach to align with regulatory requirements and operational needs. To assist in this process, Hover has developed regulatory packages for the 3 pathways and is offering 30-minute free consultations aimed at helping you define your CONOPS effectively. Seizing this opportunity can provide invaluable insights and guidance, empowering you to navigate the regulatory landscape confidently and clearly. Contact the team today.


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