Aeronautical licences - Guidelines | ACMA

Aeronautical licences - Guidelines

What is an aeronautical licence?

An aeronautical licence is issued to authorise a station that:

  • is not fixed to an aircraft;
  • is operated on aeronautical frequencies;
  • is operated for purposes relating to the operation of an aircraft, or airport or aerodrome operations; and
  • in relation to an aircraft includes a mobile station operated on board the aircraft or on the ground in communication with aircraft.

An aeronautical licence is necessary to authorise the operation of stations providing:

  • air traffic control services;
  • aerodrome radio information services;
  • private company radiocommunications; and
  • other airport or aerodrome services.

The aeronautical licence type is defined in the Radiocommunications (Interpretation) Determination 2015.

Licensing option

The current licensing option available under this category is the aeronautical assigned system. 

This option authorises, under one licence, the operation at a particular location, of all fixed stations, mobile stations, hand-helds and stations on-board aircraft that operate on an assigned aeronautical frequency associated with one licensee.  Appropriate frequency assignments are made to ensure that stations are protected from interference from other radiocommunications services. 

Relevant frequency assignments will be printed on the licence.

Licence conditions

The operation of radiocommunications equipment authorised by an aeronautical licence is subject to:

  • conditions specified in the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act), including an obligation to comply with the Act;
  • a condition that any radiocommunication device operated under the licence must comply with all the standards applicable to it;
  • conditions specified in any determinations made by ACMA under paragraph 107(1)(f) of the Act
  • conditions specified in the licence; and
  • any further conditions imposed by the ACMA under section 111 of the Act.

Generally, conditions are applied to licences to enable users to communicate effectively with a minimum of interference. All conditions relating to a licence must be complied with.

In addition to the above, aeronautical frequencies may also be subject to Airservices Australia Regulations and Instructions. Frequency assignments in the aeronautical mobile service must also be authorised by Airservices Australia.

Licence conditions determinations

The ACMA may determine, by written instrument, conditions relating to apparatus licences. These conditions are known as Licence Conditions Determinations (LCDs).

The Radiocommunications Licence Condition (Apparatus Licence) Determination 2015 contains conditions of licence that are common to all apparatus licences.

The Radiocommunications Licence Conditions (Aeronautical Licence) Determination 2015 (the Aeronautical LCD) contains conditions of licence that apply to all aeronautical licences. These conditions include the type of communications permitted, with whom the operator is permitted to communicate, callsign usage and relevant equipment specifications.

Advisory notes are automatically attached to licences where an LCD is in force. The note references the applicable LCD.  Advisory Notes provide information that may be of interest to a licensee.

The licence conditions imposed through the relevant LCD may change from time to time. Licensees should ensure that they have informed themselves of the current conditions imposed by the ACMA.

Special conditions

Any other conditions of operation which apply to an individual licence but are not included in the LCD, will be printed on the licence under the heading 'Special Conditions'.

An accredited person may ask ACMA to impose one or more special conditions on the licence according to the circumstances in which the frequency assignments for the licence are made.

Callsigns

The licensee of an aeronautical station must use either a form of identification that clearly identifies the station, or a callsign allocated by the ACMA, at the start of each transmission or series of transmissions.

Callsigns are a unique series of letters and/or numbers allocated to a radiocommunications user to identify a station. Callsigns should be used for all on-air communications, including testing. Callsigns allocated to aeronautical stations conform with International Telecommunication Union Radio Regulations (see Table 1 for callsign template).

Table 1 - Aeronautical Callsign Template

aaamnn Aeronautical callsign template (example of typical callsign VKA714)
aaa first two alpha characters are VJ, VK, VL, VM, VN, VZ, or AX, with the third character being any alpha
m numeric character 2 - 9
nn numeric character 0 - 9

While aerodrome radio information services are issued aeronautical station callsigns by the ACMA, under section 8 of the Aeronautical LCD, operators may use other forms of identification. Airservices Australia has a requirement that aerodrome radio information stations should follow the callsign requirements set out in its Australian Aeronautical Information Publication which requires operators of Aerodrome radio information stations to use a location identifier, for example, BOURKE UNICOM, or for a CA/GRS, BROOME RADIO. This allows pilots to identify the location of the station and the service being provided.

Aerodrome radio information services

Aerodrome radio information services are air/ground radiocommunication services provided by aerodrome operators or, in some cases, air operator certificate holders, at some uncontrolled aerodromes in Australia.

An uncontrolled aerodrome is an aerodrome that is not designated by Airservices Australia to be controlled and, as such, does not have an air traffic control service. However, a designated aerodrome can be uncontrolled at times, when air traffic control services are not available at that aerodrome (for example, after the hours of operation of the control tower). Aerodrome radio information services may be permitted at these locations while the aerodrome is uncontrolled.

Depending on the class of aerodrome, the following services may be provided:

  • Certified air/Ground radio service (CA/GRS) is a ground based aerodrome radio information service on the Mandatory Broadcast Zone (MBZ) frequency. The service must be operated by a person who has been approved by Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

    A CA/GRS provides specified information about air traffic, local meteorological and weather conditions at the aerodrome and other relevant operational information. The meteorological and aerodrome weather information is provided by means of the Aerodrome Radio Information Services.

    The CA/GRS is provided in the terminal airspace of high traffic movement density, non-controlled aerodromes, where high and low capacity passenger transport aircraft operations are mixed with general aviation.
  • Automatic aerodrome information service (AAIS) is a continuous and repetitive broadcast of current, routine meteorological and aerodrome information to aircraft while the CA/GRS is in operation. The AAIS operates on a discrete frequency assigned for that purpose.
  • Universal communication (Unicom) is an aerodrome radio information service on the Mandatory Broadcast Zone (MBZ) or Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) associated with the aerodrome at which it operates. The service is an information service, not an air traffic service. A Unicom provides information about local weather conditions, runway in use and refuelling facilities at the aerodrome as well as other operational or company information.
  • Aerodrome frequency response unit (AFRU) provides an automatic response when a pilot transmits on the aerodrome frequency (MBZ frequency or CTAF) for the particular aerodrome.
  • AFRU with pilot activated aerodrome lighting (PAL) option provides PAL, with voice confirmation of lighting actuation, as an additional function of the AFRU on the MBZ or CTAF frequency associated with the aerodrome.

Licensing requirements

Airservices Australia is nominated by the ACMA to approve all frequency assignments made in the aviation bands. Airservices generally permits only one aerodrome radio information service per frequency at any location. Where an AFRU or AFRU+PAL is provided as a supplement to a CA/GRS or Unicom at an aerodrome, and it operates on the same frequency, only one licence is required.

Apparatus licence applications for aerodrome radio information services should be made to the ACMA. The ACMA is responsible for referring all applications to Airservices Australia for approval.

Airservices Australia will examine applications to ensure that all requirements for providing an aerodrome radio information service are met. Airservices Australia will determine the operating frequency to be used. If Airservices Australia approval is obtained, the ACMA will then issue an aeronautical licence authorising an aeronautical assigned station to the applicant.

Use of an aerodrome radio information service for ground-to-ground communications is forbidden by the International Telecommunication Union.

Operating frequencies

CA/GRS, Unicom, AFRU and AFRU+PAL services are provided on the CTAF or MBZ frequency associated with the aerodrome where the service is located.

MBZ frequencies and CTAF are the frequencies in the Aeronautical Mobile VHF band that are used to facilitate the exchange of information between pilots. Airservices Australia does not monitor CTAF or MBZ frequencies.

Airservices has allocated MBZ frequencies in the sub-band 126.50-126.95 MHz, with 50 kHz channel spacing. CTAF has been allocated the sub-band 127.00-128.00 MHz, with 50 kHz channel spacing.

As the primary purpose of CTAF/MBZ frequencies is for pilots to exchange operational information, aerodrome radio information services are allowed on a secondary basis. Aerodrome radio information services must not interfere with the exchange of traffic information between pilots.

AAIS stations operate on a sub-band of the Aeronautical Mobile VHF band. AAIS are allocated in a sub-set of the 126.20-128.85 MHz sub-band, with 50 kHz channel spacing. Not all channels within this sub-band are allocated to AAIS.

Additional information about the locations and frequencies of aerodrome radio information services is published in ' En-Route Supplement Australia' (ERSA).

The emission and maximum power to be used by CA/GRS, Unicom, AFRU and AFRU+PAL stations is 6K00A3E and 5 watts EIRP. The emission and maximum power to be used by AAIS stations is 6K00A3E and 20 watts EIRP.

Frequencies and conditions of usage such as emission, power, bandwidth and location will be recorded on the licence.

Applying for an apparatus licence

Applications for an apparatus licence may be made to the Radiocommunications Licensing and Assignments Section, ACMA, Canberra. Applicants should complete the ACMA form Application for apparatus licence(s) (R057). If frequency assignments are required with this licence, the frequency coordination work may be performed either by the ACMA or an accredited person.

If the work is to be done by the ACMA form Application for Additional Station Information (R077) should also be submitted with the licence application.

Alternatively if you wish to use the services of an accredited person you should refer to the List of Accredited Persons for contact details. An accredited person will issue you with a frequency assignment certificate and this should be submitted with the licence application to the ACMA. Accredited persons are not employed by the ACMA, nor is the ACMA responsible for the work of accredited persons.

More information about Accreditation can be found on the ACMA website.

Fees

Licence fees are set having regard to spectrum location, geographical location, amount of spectrum occupied and coverage area authorised by the licence.  Detailed information about fees is provided in the Apparatus Licence Fee Schedule.

Individuals and organisations may be eligible for an exemption or concession from the payment of licence fees. For further information see Licence Fee Exemptions and Concessions.

Transfers of apparatus licences

Apparatus licences may be transferred. Applicants wishing to transfer an apparatus licence should complete and submit to the ACMA, the form Application for Transfer of Apparatus Licence(s) (R060). Both the transferer and the transferee must sign the transfer form. Applicants are required to pay a transfer charge to cover ACMA's administrative expenses.

There are a number of limitations on the transfer of apparatus licences. The Radiocommunications (Limitation of Authorisation of Third Party Users and Transfer of Apparatus Licences) Determination 2015 specifies these limitations.

A device authorised by the transferred licence is still required to operate under the same technical conditions (included transmission site) as specified on the original licence.

Third party operation

Licensees may authorise, by written instrument, other persons to operate radiocommunications devices under the apparatus licences. These are known as third party authorisations.

There are a number of limitations on third party authorisations. The Radiocommunications (Limitation of Authorisation of Third Party Users and Transfer of Apparatus Licences) Determination 2015 specifies these limitations.

A person authorised to use a radiocommunications device under a third party authorisation is subject to all of the conditions applicable to that device under the licence.

Further information

If you have any additional queries relating to this, or any, licence type, please contact the Radiocommunications Licensing Assignments Section.

If you have any queries relating to Airservices Australia Regulations and instructions, please contact Airservices Australia.

Additional operational, technical and regulatory information about aerodrome radio information services can be obtained from CASA's Airspace, Air Traffic and Aerodrome Standards Branch on the enquiry line 131 757, or from Airservices Australia's Spectrum Manager on 1300 301 120.

Airservices Australia publications, including Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP) and En-Route Supplement Australia (ERSA), are available from the Airservices Australia Publications Centre on 1300 306 630.

Last updated: 27 February 2017