RPAS, UAV, UAS, Drones and Model Aircraft
There has been huge growth in the development and use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS)*. You can see examples everywhere of aeroplanes and multi-rotor ‘helicopters’ in toy and electronic stores.
There’s also a lot of interest in their commercial use, such as in real estate aerial photography and power lines inspection.
But they are aircraft and present a number of safety risks, particularly close to controlled airspace and over densely-populated areas – what happens if they fail mid-flight? Aviation regulators around the world are grappling with how to integrate RPAS into existing aviation safety systems.
Like all aviation ‘participants’, people who fly RPAS need to know some safety rules, so everyone in the air and on the ground, gets home safely and their aircraft is not destroyed.
Vanuatu Drone Safety - CAAV
*RPAS is the official International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) term for such aircraft. They are also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), and drones.
Vanuatu - New Rules For RPAS, UAV, UAS, Drones and Model Aircraft
New rules are now in place for RPAS, UAV, UAS, Drones and Model Aircraft and if you operate any of these aircraft, it's important that you read the rules:
Rules - see Part 101 and Part 102.
We've provided some help to make it easier though, see:
Advisory Circulars - these give advice on how to comply with the rules.
Forms - there's also the application form for Part 101 and 102, for both Operators and RPAS.
For answers about consent, certification, airspace, etc, see:
Frequently Asked Questions - RPAS, UAV, UAS, Drones and Model Aircraft
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Civil Aviation Rules
Every person in Vanuatu’s civil aviation community shares responsibility for the safety and security of everyone. The Minister of Transport creates the Civil Aviation Rules to make sure it happens.
Those rules are divided into groups of related rules called ‘Parts’.
The two Parts that relate directly to RPAS are:
- Part 101 Gyrogliders and Parasails, Unmanned Aircraft (including Balloons), Kites, and Rockets - Operating Rules, and
- Part 102 Unmanned Aircraft Operator Certification.
Operators of RPAS also need to be aware of other rules that affect them, for example Part 91 General Operating and Flight Rules.
Part 101 only applies to RPAS of 25 kg and under that can fully comply with the rules in Part 101. To operate any aircraft over this weight, and for operations that cannot comply with Part 101, the operator must be certificated under Part 102.
RPAS weighing between 15 and 25 kg must be constructed or inspected, approved and operated under the authority of a person or association approved for this purpose by the Director of Civil Aviation.
There are 12 key things that are required under Part 101 - you must:
- not operate an aircraft that is 25 kg or larger and always ensure that it is safe to operate
- at all times take all practicable steps to minimize hazards to persons, property and other aircraft (ie, don’t do anything hazardous)
- fly only in daylight
- give way to all crewed aircraft
- be able to see the aircraft with your own eyes (eg, not through binoculars, a monitor, or smartphone) to ensure separation from other aircraft (or use an observer to do this in certain cases)
- not fly your aircraft higher than 120 metres (400 feet) above ground level (unless certain conditions are met)
- have knowledge of airspace restrictions that apply in the area you want to operate
- not fly closer than four kilometres from any aerodrome (unless certain conditions are met)
- when flying in controlled airspace, obtain an air traffic control clearance issued by Airways
- not fly in special use airspace without the permission of the administering authority of the area (eg, military operating areas or restricted areas)
- have consent from anyone you want to fly above
- have the consent of the property owner or person in charge of the area you are wanting to fly above.
This list should not substitute for a full reading of Part 101. You should conduct a thorough assessment of your operation and understand the rules that apply to your operation before deciding whether to operate under Part 101 and 102.
To help you in this, we have provided a matrix, which is a checklist to see if you comply with the rules. See Forms. Also see the Advisory Circulars for advice on how to comply with the rules.
Part 101 requires operators to obtain the consent of property owners and people that they are flying over. It is a two step requirement:
- First, a operator must not use airspace above people unless they have the consent of people below the flight; and
- Second, an operator must not use airspace above an area of property unless prior consent has been obtained from any persons occupying that property or the property owner;
It is important to note that this is only one aspect of the risk mitigation required in Part 101. There is still an overarching obligation to take all practicable steps to avoid any hazards.
If you cannot obtain consent, or obtaining consent is impractical, it may be a signal that your operation is too hazardous to be conducted under Part 101. You can apply to the CAA to be certificated under Part 102. Part 102 allows the Director of Civil Aviation to work though different options with an operator and/or to relax or remove one or both of the consent requirements altogether.
More information about consent is in the Advisory Circular AC101-1.
Part 102 is based on the risk of the operations. Applicants must submit an 'exposition' showing that they have identified hazards and risks of their operation, and ways they will mitigate those risks. Each application will be considered on its merit - this allows for the wide scope of operations made possible by RPAS.
Having determined that you need to be certificated for your type of operation, we have provided some documents to help you. As well as the Part 101 compliance matrix mentioned above, there is an additional one for Part 102 - note that you need to complete both to apply for a Part 102 certificate. There's also a sample exposition that you can copy or use as a template for your exposition. See Forms. Also see the Advisory Circulars for advice on how to comply with the rules.
List of Part 102 Unmanned Aircraft Operator Certificate Holders
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We are getting into some slightly technical information now, so if you are not familiar with the aviation terms used, we strongly recommend you contact CAA Vanuatu for their guidance. For more information about airspace, see CAA Vanuatu on our Links page.
See the Advisory Circulars for guidance on safety and how to comply with the rules.
A shielded operation is a flight where your aircraft is within 100 m of an object that’s capable of stopping it, like a building, or a forest of trees. In a shielded operation, the aircraft must fly no higher than the top of that object. A shielded operation allows you to fly within 4 km of an aerodrome, controlled and uncontrolled, and at night.
If you plan to use this provision, make sure you familiarise yourself with the rules in Part 101, and the advice in the Advisory Circular.
Graphic showing types of airspace
If you were to just launch your RPAS/model willy-nilly from the backyard, you could unintentionally breach airspace law.
Air Traffic Control (ATC) units authorize the use of airspace near a number of Vanuatu aerodromes because of the volume of passenger-carrying airliners.
Airspace is designated for different uses, as shown in the diagram, often referred to as an 'inverted wedding cake'.
If you want to fly a RPAS/model in controlled airspace, you need to get prior authorization from the CAAV unit administering that airspace.
Current controlled aerodromes are: Bauerfield Port Vila, Harbour Heliport Port Vila, and Pekoa Santo.
For aerodrome contact details, see the Aerodrome Charts on the Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP) web site.
Operators of RPAS/model aircraft must not fly them within a four kilometre radius of an aerodrome boundary (even if that radius includes uncontrolled airspace).
Holders of a Part 61 Pilot Licence are exempted from this, as are operators who have received a “Wings” badge from CAAV, or are accompanied by someone who has. Operators under these categories still need prior authorization from the aerodrome operator to fly within the four kilometre zone.
Even once an operator has authorization, they must not fly their model over any active runway strip, or any area where aircraft taxi. Control line aircraft must also remain clear of such areas.
Special Use Airspace
Sometimes, airspace is designated “Special Use”.
There are specially-designated zones or areas where model aircraft cannot fly, such as a Low Flying Zone, where, as the name suggests, low-level flight training takes place.
On the other hand, some areas are designated specifically for model aircraft flying.
Airspace can also be temporarily designated “Special Use” to help a police, military, or search and rescue operation.
The CAAV and drone.vu have a full list of airspace designated Special Use.
To fly your aircraft, the weather must be clear enough so you can see three kilometres or further. The model must remain clear of cloud. You cannot fly the model if the cloud base prevents you from seeing it, unaided, at all times.
Aircraft cannot be flown outdoors at night, except if you fly it within 100 m of a structure such as a tall building or tall tree. Flying an aircraft within 100 m of a structure is referred to as a ‘shielded operation’. That’s because no other aircraft would be flying that low and close to such structures. Your aircraft must not fly higher than the top of the construction or tree.
The Vanuatu Cultural Centre, Film and Audio Department has adopted the MAV - Media Association of Vanuatu Privacy and Ethics Guidelines for the use of RPAS in Vanuatu. Furthermore, filming of identifiable persons or children requires a signed Personal Release for Use prior to any use.
Media published without appropriate Personal Release of the subject portrayed will be issued a take-down order under international Copyright Laws to which Vanuatu is a Signatory.
Remotely piloted aircraft (RPAS) must use the right radio frequencies, so they don’t cause harmful interference to vital radio systems such as air traffic control, cellular phones, or emergency services.
People who use the wrong frequencies for their RPAS can be prosecuted.
Because most RPAS equipment is developed offshore, it often exceeds the radio frequency and radio power limits required in Vanuatu, and so it could be illegal to possess or use here.
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