The drone sector in Australia is experiencing swift and dynamic changes, as emerging technologies pave the way for creative uses in different fields. This evolution offers an exciting chance for those keen on getting a drone licence in QLD, especially as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are becoming more and more common.

In this detailed guide, we’ll take you through the steps to become a certified professional drone pilot in QLD (and Australia), covering essential certifications and potential career paths.

Licensing Requirements in QLD

In Queensland, as in other parts of the country, the rules for flying drones commercially are regulated by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). Here are the key points regarding drone licensing in Queensland and Australia for commercial purposes:

  1. Commercial Operations: If you intend to fly a drone for commercial purposes – that is, if you’re being paid for your work or using the drone to support a business – you are generally required to have a Remote Pilot Licence (RePL). This licence demonstrates that you have the necessary training and skills to operate a drone safely for commercial purposes. To get an RePL, you must complete training at a CASA-approved training provider.
  1. Exemptions for Smaller Drones: For drones weighing less than 2kg, there is an exemption where you can fly commercially without an RePL, but you must notify CASA at least five business days before your first commercial flight and operate by the standard operating conditions.
  1. Standard Operating Conditions: These include keeping the drone within visual line-of-sight, flying only during the day and in good weather, staying below 120 meters in altitude, keeping away from controlled airspace, and maintaining a certain distance from people and property.
  1. Registration and Accreditation: Regardless of whether you need an RePL, if you are flying a drone weighing more than 250 grams, you must register your drone with CASA. As of late 2022, CASA also introduced a requirement for drone operator accreditation, which is a basic knowledge test on safety rules.

It’s important to stay up-to-date with CASA’s regulations as they can change, either through CASA’s website or with a registered training provider in Queensland.

Once You Have Obtained Your License Your Duties Can Include

Drone pilots handle a variety of tasks that include gathering survey data, inspecting assets, collecting atmospheric information, aerial photography, and filming locations. Essential duties of a drone pilot consist of:

  • Maintenance: Keeping drone systems and related gear in optimal condition.
  • Equipment Testing: Thoroughly testing equipment for reliable performance.
  • Safety Checks: Evaluating any safety issues tied to job tasks.
  • Weather Tracking: Continuously checking weather conditions to ensure safe flights.
  • Flight Coordination: Carefully organizing flight activities.
  • Flying Skills: Skillfully flying drones during missions.
  • Data Acquisition: Gathering vital data for client projects.
  • Sensor Operations: Handling cameras and additional sensors on the drone.
  • Skill Development: Seeking further certifications to expand their expertise.

It’s also crucial to note that drone technology and regulations are continually evolving in Queensland as the technology becomes utilised in more operations and applications. 

License Training Duration & Key Details

It typically takes about five days of training to acquire your Drone Licence (RePL). This training includes both practical and theoretical elements. You’ll engage in at least five hours of direct flight training and 15 hours of classroom learning. The theoretical part covers various subjects such as drone regulations and systems, meteorology, planning flights, understanding human factors, navigating with maps and charts, and gaining proficiency in Aviation English Language.

Costs for Drone Pilot Training

The expense of training to become a drone pilot, which includes obtaining your RePL, depends on your chosen training provider. Generally, the cost hovers around $1,750 AUD. For those with previous aviation experience, some institutions provide a Conversion Course priced at about $890 AUD.

When selecting a drone training program, it’s important to examine the course content carefully to ensure it fits your needs. Also, consider the types of drones used in the training and the qualifications and practical experience of the trainers.

Drone Pilot Earnings in Australia

The average yearly income for drone pilots in QLD is around $83,700 AUD. Beginners in the field might start at about $61,000 AUD, but seasoned pilots with additional certifications can make upwards of $100,000 AUD annually. Factors influencing salary levels include experience, additional certifications, logged flight hours, and the specific industry of operation.

Some Key Opportunities of QLD Drone Careers

There are promising career prospects in fields like mining and power generation, where the expertise of drone pilots is highly valued for their adherence to safety and precision.

Drones have become crucial in several industries across QLD and Australia, such as:

  • Mining: Employed for tasks like mapping, equipment checks, managing inventory, and improving safety measures.
  • Construction and Engineering: Helpful in gathering data and aiding in project design and management.
  • Agriculture: Used for monitoring crop health, distributing pesticides, and managing wildlife.
  • Surveying: Transforming the field with precision and efficiency.
  • Arts and Entertainment: Sought after for unique photography and filming opportunities.
  • Emergency Services: Integral to the operations of police, fire, and rescue departments.
  • Defence and Public Safety: Skills developed here are often transferable to civilian roles.

The drone sector in Australia, particularly in Queensland, is witnessing a transformative era driven by emerging technologies. Obtaining a Remote Pilot Licence (RePL) from CASA is crucial for those aiming to engage in commercial drone operations. 

The licensing requirements, including exemptions for smaller drones and adherence to standard operating conditions, underscore the commitment to safety and responsible drone use. Drone pilots in Queensland play diverse roles, from gathering survey data to supporting emergency services. 

As the industry evolves, staying informed about CASA’s regulations is imperative. With an average yearly income of around $83,700 AUD and promising opportunities in various sectors like mining, construction, agriculture, and emergency services, pursuing a career as a drone pilot in Queensland offers both financial rewards and a chance to contribute to innovative applications of drone technology.