Until late 2013, the only training stream open to prospective UAV Operators in Australia was via the traditional method under the original CASR101.295. The first part involves passing the Private Pilot Licence (PPL) theory exam. Whilst appropriate in terms of general aviation knowledge, the PPL theory course makes no mention of RPAS, and much of the PPL ‘aircraft’ theory can be irrelevant to modern RPAS Operators who predominantly use GPS navigation instead of radio-based navigation aids. The second part to this traditional training stream involves the RPAS manufacturer’s practical flight training on the RPAS type you intend to operate yourself.
In late 2013 CASA approved a new RPAS training syllabus specific to RPAS in both theory and practical training content. The new syllabus is called a Remote Pilot Licence – Level 1 Visual Line Of Sight (RePL1). This is the modern equivalent of the original ‘UAV Controller Certificates’ and in time will replace these older certificates altogether.
RePL1 theory modules include basic aeronautical knowledge, meteorology, human factors, navigation & flight planning, as well as specific RPAS knowledge as well such as battery management. Theory components culminate in a written exam.
Practical components of the RePL1 course take students through basic flying skills to build core competencies & confidence. Practical flight training includes pre-flight checks, standard flight operations procedures and emergency procedures. A final flight operations assessment will put student pilots through all facets of RPAS operations, demonstrating piloting competency in all orientations of the RPAS.
Because this syllabus is still relatively new there are only around 40 CASA certified RPAS training schools at present, but more are being certified by CASA each month and are able to deliver the RePL1 training course on various RPAS types and weight classes.