australian CASA - Drone weight classification explained

10 September 2020

A quick and simplified explanation of the Australian, Civil Aviation Safety Authority definitions into drone types, weights and category classification.

Types of drones

Drones are classified into the following types and size categories. You may need a remote pilot licence (RePL) to fly some drone types or sizes.

A model aircraft is a drone flown for sport or recreation – for fun. A remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) is a drone flown for business or as part of your job – commercially.

Type classifications

Multi-rotor helicopter

This type has more than one power-driven engine (rotor) that rotate or turn vertically. It takes off, lands, flies and hovers like a traditional 'single rotor' helicopter but has more than one rotor.

Single-rotor helicopter

This type has one power-driven engine (rotor) and looks a bit like a traditional helicopter. It usually also has another rotor on the tail or end of the aircraft.


This type looks and flies like a regular plane - it has fixed wings. It also takes off and lands horizontally and usually can't hover.

Powered lift

This type can take off and land vertically (straight up and down) like a helicopter, but can then move into forward flight like a traditional plane.


This type is engine powered and is 'lighter than air' - it can be filled with a buoyant gas and usually 'floats' in the air. A blimp is a good example of an airship.

These represent simplified 'plain-English' definitions.

You can find the official technical definitions for each RPA in the locations below:

Multi and Single-rotor helicopter - Civil Aviation Regulations 1988, Volume 1, Part 1, 2 Interpretation (both covered by the common 'helicopter' definition)

Aeroplane - Civil Aviation Regulations 1988, Volume 1, Part 1, 2 Interpretation

Powered lift and Airship - Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998, Volume 5, Dictionary, Part 1 - Definitions.

Size categories