Five important tips for hiring a drone operator

We are here to help you throughout the process and to assist with any questions you may have. As a starting point, we have set out some tips below for you to keep in mind when choosing and working with a drone operator. Please note that we are entirely independent and are not related parties with any of the drone operators. We are also not involved in or a party to the actual agreement you may enter into with them. Accordingly, please re-familiarise yourself with our Terms and Conditions before entering into any transaction with a drone operator.

Here are the five important tips to bear in mind when choosing your drone operator:

1. Certification

Drone operators must be certified by CASA (the Civil Aviation Safety Authority), in order for them to be allowed to do business with you. The certificate is referred to as an RPA Operator's Certificate ‘ReOC’ (previously referred to as an Unmanned Operator's Certificate ‘UOC’).

As of 29/09/16 organisations which operate ‘Very Small Remotely Piloted Aircraft’ (VSRPA) weighing less than 2 kg may also fly their drone for commercial use (for money), provided they have an Aviation Reference Number (ARN), and have successfully notified CASA via the CASA RPAS notification form.

While we require all operators listed on to provide their CASA certification number, or indicate that they have successfully completed the CASA RPAS notification process, (sub-2kg drone operators), you should satisfy yourself that your chosen operator's certificate or RPAS notification is valid and that it permits the operator to carry out the kind of work you are asking them to do. Engaging a non-certified, non-validated or uninsured drone operator may expose you to substantial damages or compensation claims.

2. Insurance

We strongly recommend you satisfy yourself that your chosen drone operator holds a current public liability insurance policy that specifically covers the operation of a drone (RPA) for your project. The public liability insurance policy should also cite the names of the persons who will be controlling the actual drone/s during your project.

3. Relevant equipment and experience

Drones are used for a wide range of purposes and this requires different:

a. Drone designs - e.g. quadcopter, octocopter, fixed wing aircraft
b. Camera types - e.g. GoPro, X5, Red Epic, Alexa Mini or Tau thermal camera),
c. Operator experience – e.g. photographing houses, shooting TV commercials, asset inspection, crop analysis and forest survey.

As an example, for an operator to perform Film or Television work, the operator is likely to require a high-end 4K camera such as an Alexa, be able to work effectively with a Director of Photography, and be skilled pilot who can fly very smoothly and get the drone into the right position for an optimal shot.

As another example, to carry out a more technical survey or mapping work, the operator would need to understand how to capture and manage data sets to ensure that the final result is accurate.

Ask your drone operator to demonstrate that they have experience doing specifically what you are asking for. Operators should be able to demonstrate this by showing you their sample images and videos and data sets/ 3d models.

4. Travel expenses

Drone operators that do not have an office near the area that your job is located in sometimes add travel expenses to their quote. Please discuss this with them directly.

5. Job approval

Depending on the nature of the job, the job location and various other factors, drone operators may need to request approval from CASA/Air Services before commencing your work.

You should ask your chosen operator about this directly before the commencement of any work.