Drones have become one of the latest and greatest technological gadgets that everybody seems to want. However, that does not mean to say that there weren’t or aren’t problems in terms of the legality of owning or flying them. For example, back in 2014 an instruction was given by Poppy Khoza (the Director of Civil Aviation) that grounded all drones pending the implementation of steadfast regulations to govern these new “toys”.
Without strict rules in place, flying these drones has caused a bit of trouble in countries around the world, for example, in America a drone crash landed in the White House gardens resulting in the White House going into lockdown due to a fear of it being a “weaponised drone”. These have been the fears in a number of circumstances such as a drone “attack” on the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and a number of times where someone has flown a drone over fully packed stadiums. Then we have had drones almost crash into news helicopters, there was almost a collision with an Airbus A320 on take-off. There have been further worries due to environmental concerns, a drone crash landed in the Grand Prismatic Spring, and one drone was actually attacked by a red-tailed hawk. Further there have been reported injuries to people, in Japan a 4kg drone flew into a crowd of people injuring six, another drone injured an Australian athlete, and another cut off the tip of a photographer’s nose.
The laws regarding the use and flying of drones can be found in Part 101 of the CAA, these rules have been briefly discussed below. In terms of using a drone for personal use, one can be grateful that a few of these rules have been excluded.
If a drone is to be flown for private use, it’s operator will not require a letter of approval from the Director, nor will he/she require a license. Further exclusions are that the pilot will not need an operators certificate nor will they be required to maintain the drone in the same manner required if it were to be used for Commercial use.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has introduced a number of guidelines for the use of drones, and it has been set out quite nicely on their website under the general information. When it comes to using a drone for private purposes, these are some of the acceptable uses for a drone.
(a) The Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAS) may only be used for an individual's personal and private purposes where there is no commercial outcome, interest or gain;
(b) The pilot must observe all statutory requirements relating to liability, privacy and any other laws enforceable by any other authorities.
DO NOT, through act or omission, endanger the safety of another aircraft or person therein or any person or property through negligent flying/operation of Remotely Piloted Aircraft, or toy aircraft.
Do not fly/operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft, or toy aircraft 50 m or closer from:
Unless approved by the SACAA, DO NOT fly/operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft or toy aircraft:
Do not fly/operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft, or toy aircraft higher than 150m from the ground, unless approved by the Director of Civil Aviation of the SACAA.
Some more general provisions regulating the flight of drones, be it for personal or commercial use includes provisions that:
Drones cannot be flown within 50m above or close to a person or crowd of people, structure or building – without prior SACAA approval. Nor can you fly drones adjacent to or above:
If one wanted to operate an RPA for commercial purposes, the drone must first be registered and approved by the CAA, and the operator will require an RPA’s pilot’s license.
In order to get the abovementioned license, one must undergo medical certification, certification of radiotelephony, English proficiency, flight training, and passing both a theoretical examination and skills test. Only persons over the age of 18 will be eligible for a license and it is only valid for 24 months. 90 days prior to the expiry of the license, the license holder will also have to go through a revalidation check in order to renew it.
There are three different categories in which a license can be issued, aeroplane, helicopter or multi-rotor. These licenses may include additional ratings such as visual line-of-sight operations, extended visual line-of-sight operations and beyond visual line-of-sight operations.
To make these laws even stricter, a pilot is required to keep a pilot logbook detailing each flight much like that of a normal manned aircraft.
In South Africa, drones are used extensively in farming, in wildlife management to save dwindling animal populations, maintain power lines, monitor traffic flows and provide security surveillance of assets in remote parts of our country. Other common uses for drones around the world, this is not only in South Africa as some of these are against the CAA or just not applicable, include:
The price of drones in South Africa span across a massive range, you could collect a cheap drone for about R400 (basically a children’s toy) however, this price goes all the way up to R85 399.
With the price of drones as high as they are, if you wanted to you could get one even more expensive than the figure mentioned above, it may be a wise idea to think about insurance.
Let rsquo;s take Hollard for example, they will insure your drone against loss, damage and liability related to the drone itself, as well as premises, hangarkeepers, and product liability. It is common knowledge that the main purpose of a drone is it’s ability to capture images from above, Hollard will even insure you against the loss of data. However, this insurance comes with certain requirements. These requirements include:
From the above it is clear that the flying of drones in South Africa is now strictly monitored, in fact it is the intention of the CAA to train SAPS and other enforcement agencies to be proficient in the understanding of these laws in order to effectively implement the use of drones across the country.