Getting Grounded: Drone Regulations Set To Deploy In South Africa

Getting Grounded: Drone Regulations Set To Deploy In South Africa

Drone regulations go into effect July 1 in South Africa, and authorities are preparing for an influx of new licences but critics say the rules could make it impossible to use drones for commercial purposes, IOLNews reports.

Pilots cannot drop, deploy, deliver or release anything off a drone according to the new regulations.

Applicants must be 18 or older, hold a medical certificate for beyond visual-line-of-sight operations, and hold a restricted certificate of proficiency in radiotelephony. They must have a valid remote pilot licence for aeroplanes, helicopters or multirotors. Drone pilots must also have a functioning air band radio tuned to the frequencies applicable to the air traffic services unit controlling the relevant airspace.

This is “akin to subjecting a model boat to a warship review,” said Hennie Kieser, president of the Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Association of Southern Africa. Applicants will essentially be subjected to the same rigorous processing as commercial and passenger airlines, Kieser said.

The South African Civil Aviation Authority has begun training officers to serve as drone inspectors. Anyone who wants to fly a drone for commercial purposes must register both drone and pilot for a licence, be trained for compliance and undergo testing, according to an htxt report.

At issue is how the amendments to the Civil Aviation Act are interpreted, Kieser said in the IOL report. “Despite reasonable amendments to the Civil Aviation Act, drones that could deliver services and create jobs will be effectively grounded if the South African Civil Aviation Authority’s proposed bureaucratic interpretations of the regulations are implemented.”

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South Africa is one of the first countries in the world to formulate regulations for drone licencing and operation, according to DefenceWeb.

Drone trainers from the U.S. and U.K. are training five South African officials at O.R. Tambo International Airport, IOL reports.

The new regulations are just a first step in the changes drones are bringing to South Africa’s airspace, and they are subject to change, said Phindiwe Gwebu, spokesperson for the South African aviation authority, htxt reports.

“Given the pace of technological development in this area we treat the (drone) regulation framework as a continual work in progress,” Gwebu said. “We will continue to engage with industry to refine them when, where and as necessary.”

In South Africa, drones have been used to curb rhino poaching, monitor conditions such as erosion and progress on projects such as the Medupi Power Station, Kieser told IOL. They’ve been used at mines.

Other potential uses include replacing the expense of helicopter footage in the film industry. In rural areas, they could be used to transport samples from remote clinics to processing labs.

Civil aviation Director Poppy Khoza acknowledged that drones could be lucrative, but said safety comes first, IOL reports.

“Very often when we introduce regulations that seek not only to promote new technology and overall development of the industry, we often come across individuals and entities that are determined to put profits ahead of the overall safety of other airspace users,” Khoza said.

Meanwhile, private companies in South Africa are already meeting the demand from aspiring drone pilots, according to htxt. Safe Drone is publishing details and compliance information for the regulations. Curiosity Campus in Cape Town launched a Drone Academy program.

In South Africa, it could cost anywhere from 100,000-to-150,000 rand ($8,076 to $12,115) to get a drone licence — similar to the cost of a private pilot’s licence, DefenceWeb reports.