New rules regulating the use of UAVS have been signed by the Minister of Transport, Ms Dipuo Peters and will be officially be put into effect 01 July 2015.

The director of Civil Aviation Poppy Khoza said the South African Civil Aviation Authority had engaged with a number of key role players such as operators, manufacturers, and other airspace users and after months of amendments and incorporating requests by various stakeholders a draft was approved by the Minister of Transport on 5 May 2015.

The announcement of the official regulation means the SACAA has in fact taken the lead in formulating its own recommended standards and practices, ahead of the global regulator ICAO.

“In the absence of guiding documents from ICAO, regulators such as ourselves have had to swiftly derive measures to address the regulation deficiency in response to a growing demand to regulate this sector.”

“The SACAA took into account the national safety and security needs. We also took into account the work done by ICAO thus far and what is likely to be an international position and customised it into local regulations, taking into account our unique conditions.”

Khoza said the regulations related to remotely piloted Aircraft are specifically governed according to Part 101 of civil aviation regulations. She also said drone rules do not relate to toy aircraft or unmanned free balloons or other types of aircraft which cannot be managed on a real-time basis during flight.

Essentially the new rules require a person who operates a drone to have a CAA approved and valid remote pilot licence as well as a letter of approval to operate the drone. Approval letters will be issued for 12 months at a time.

Drones also cannot be sold unless the seller makes the purchaser aware of the SACAA’s criteria but proof of licence does not seem to be a prerequisite for purchase.

Those who fly drones adjacent to or above a nuclear power plant, prison, police station, crime scene, court of law, national key point or strategic installation will be seen as breaking the law.

Additionally, drones cannot be flown within 50m above or close to a person or crowd of people, structure or building – without prior SACAA approval.

The new regulations also states that an RPA shall give way to manned aircraft.

In addition to this, RPA pilots will be required to tune into the air traffic services for the controlled airspace they will be flying in as well as keep a logbook of all flying times and distances.

Khoza conceded that the regulations would not please all the stakeholders concerned.

“Let us all be reminded that this is the very first attempt at regulating this new industry. Moreover, there are no best practices to benchmark against anywhere in the world.”

Khoza said that the SACAA would use the next few weeks to put the final touches to the internal processes required to provide the necessary approvals and also to ensure that enforcement processes are in place in case the need arises.

“As the SACAA we are not claiming that these new regulations are static. Given the rapid pace of technological development in this area, we treat these RPAS regulatory framework as a continual work in progress, and hence we will continue to engage with industry to refine the regulations when, where and as deemed necessary.

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