New reporting requirements for safety occurrences involving remotely piloted aircraft (or drones) took effect on 30 September 2021.

The Transport Safety Investigation Regulations 2021 require the reporting of certain transport safety occurrences to the ATSB as immediately or routine reportable matters, and introduced updated requirements for operators of certain types of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) to make reports to the ATSB.

Recognising the range of different types of RPA and their uses, the regulations categorise relevant RPA as type 1 or type 2 RPA.  

RPAs that have been certified against relevant airworthiness standards (type certification), large (greater than 150kg) and medium RPAs (more than 25kg but not more than 150kg) are defined as type 1 and are an emerging form of commercial aviation that will benefit from investigation into systemic safety issues to help prevent future accidents.

Type 2 RPA are defined as those RPA that are not type 1, excluded or micro RPA (gross weight of not more than 250 grams) and have fewer reporting requirements. This distinction is made on the basis that ATSB investigations are unlikely for these operations unless there is serious risk of harm to people or significant third-party property.

RPAs that are not type 1 or type 2 including excluded or micro RPA have no reporting requirements.

Mandatory reporting for certain occurrences involving type 1 and type 2 RPA allows the ATSB to properly measure, investigate and report on safety trends in the RPA sector.

Making a report to the ATSB is not a time-consuming process, and the ATSB investigates incidents from a ‘no-blame’ perspective, prioritising improved safety outcomes.

Who is affected?

In order to provide an efficient and effective safety framework, the regulations define two types of RPAs which are subject to specific reporting requirements.

Type 1 RPAs are those which are type certified, large (over 150 kg) or medium (25 kg to 150 kg) RPA.

Type 2 RPAs are those that are not Type 1, and are not an excluded or micro (under 250 g) RPA.

Type 1 operators are required to immediately report to the ATSB RPA occurrences involving:

  • death or serious injury;
  • accidents;
  • loss of a separation standard with aircraft; and,
  • serious damage to property.

Less serious incidents and occurrences are required to be reported to the ATSB within 72 hours

Occurrences involving Type 2 RPAs generally only need to be immediately report to the ATSB if they involve death or serious injury, while less serious incidents and damage to the RPA will need to be reported within 72 hours.

RPA checklist

RPA type checklist

Make a report to the ATSB here.