Certified UAS operators in Australia hits 100

The number of UAS operator certificates issued in Australia has now reached 100.
The number of UAS operator certificates issued in Australia has now reached 100.

The Australian Certified UAV Operators Association (ACUO) has announced that Australia now has 100 certified UAS operators registered with CASA.

The milestone comes after an analysis of CASA’s certificate holder records by ACUO, and confirms that micro and small businesses are the driving force behind the industry in Australia, rather than traditional aerospace and defence sector companies.

“The structure of the unmanned aircraft industry as a whole in Australia is dominated by small and micro enterprises, with these holding 91 of all issued certificates,” ACUO President Joe Urli said in a statement. “Micro enterprises, comprising less than five people, hold 70 certificates. Just one registered Australian large business holds a certificate, with this a non-traditional aerospace company. Only three public sector entities currently hold certificates.”

Added Urli; “The message to public policy makers that flows from these facts is very clear: the unmanned aircraft industry as it is developing in Australia is purely commercially driven in its focus and should not be treated as simply an extension of the traditional aerospace and defence industrial bases.”

The analysis reveals that with the exception of two Australian-based subsidiaries of US firms, AAI Aerosonde and Insitu, it is clear that medium and large Australian and multinational aerospace and defence sector firms do not appear to be proactively seeking CASA unmanned aircraft operator certification at the current time.

The first UAS certificate was issued in November 2002, and by January 2013, the number of operator’s certificates was just 27. “The most rapid period of growth in certificate issuance has been during the past four months” says Urli. “We see this sudden surge as indicative of a pent-up demand that will only increase, particularly given the broad market space available to start-ups.”

ACUO believes the main application of UASs is in the agriculture and mining survey sectors, and is surprised that no academic institutions yet hold an operator’s certificate.