PositionIT Inbox, Aug/Sept 2018

September 11th, 2018, Published in Articles: PositionIT

Letters in this issue respond to an article about the Absa/Intel drone light show, while another reader raises the issue surveyors conducting illegal drone surveys to the detriment of drones companies, an issue that SAGI president Peter Newmarch responded to.

Our winning letter
re: Absa drone light show

Dear Editor

With reference to the article “Drone light show has commercial operators seeing red”.

Whilst many claims made in the story are true, the story creates a distorted view. We object to your publication stating that the RPAS industry as a collective was opposed to the Absa/Intel operation. We fully support the effort. It has demonstrated that certain operations which were difficult to get approvals for in the past may become easier in the future – through the South African Civil Aviation Authority’s (SACAA) implementation of what is obviously a very stringent safety case.

We also object to ROC holders and CUAASA claiming to speak on our behalf, when less than 50% of the legal market is controlled by their members. This matter was hotly debated between ROC holders and caused a significant rift between those who wish to oppose the SACAA’s efforts and those who wish to cooperate constructively with the SACAA.

Franz Fuls

re: Absa drone light show

Dear Editor

With reference to the article

With reference to the article “Drone light show has commercial operators seeing red”.

My husband and I are one of the operators still trying to get a licence. We have spent a fortune and sacrificed so much in an attempt to get an ROC. The back and forth process has been endless. We have completed many unnecessary expensive courses as well as made a shift from being a hobby craft to an aircraft. We have opened an entire aviation company, which is not an easy task, as each department carries delays.

I read your article “Drone light show has commercial operators seeing red” and I would love to know the following: Should a special air show be performed with an aircraft, will the pilots and aircraft still need to be licenced? How can a special show be approved without these fundamentals in place?

The gentleman who was in fact delaying our drone licence was, according to tweets, the same gentleman who got the approval for the show. He left the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA). He was the same gentleman controlling approvals of many drone organisations. This whole thing stinks of bribery and corruption. How can a department or new legislation be taken seriously if this is how they choose to allow a large firm to operate?

How can they now implement any legislation if Absa, Intel and an ex-SACAA drone inspector all put on a big show and did not follow any legislation? This is most certainly a commercial operation, and guaranteed that a large payment was made to someone… Hence the protection of their supplier in the article.

I am sure many would like to take the SACAA to task for this. They, of all people, should have made sure that at least the pilot and drones were licenced.

Regarding drone licencing and procedures, have these been put into place to ensure the smaller firms are not even considered for the work? So that the SACAA staff can snatch the work before a legal operator can? This brings a sick feeling to my stomach.

This is a big concern, and as a South African I feel that this would be a make or break decision for many. Why continue to pursue legality and legislation when it can simply be broken? And even worse, if I apply for approval and the SACAA staff just snatch up the work. The CAA staff who opened this company and did this work need to be investigated. The president needs to be made aware of this. Why was this not put out to tender to large companies in South Africa?

I will most certainly boycott a bank that chooses to operate with such despicable principles. I am sad to hear this and will be laying a complaint with the SACAA.

Debbie Davies

re: Surveyors conducting illegal drone surveys

Dear Editor

It is common knowledge in geomatics circles that survey and cadastral work has a statutory reservation for Professional Land Surveyors registered with the South African Geomatics Council. I believe the same applies for mine survey work. The legislation applicable to survey work is there for a good reason, but I am unsure if the breach of this will result in a crime being committed.

However, where a Geomatics Professional is found guilty of a crime (even outside geomatics legislation), the person will lose his/her professional registration.

In aviation there is legislation that makes the use of RPAS/drones for commercial use without a RPAS Operators Certificate (ROC) a crime. This legislation is there for good reason, to protect other users of civil airspace, to protect people on the ground by ensuring that an operator works to a specific standard, to ensure that our civil rights to privacy is respected, and for national security purposes. There is provision in aviation legislation for the private use of RPAS, which is greatly relaxed, but anything other than recreational use is considered commercial or corporate use and requires a ROC and all that goes with it. It is highly doubtful if a company will lose its ROC for being convicted of a crime outside of aviation.

I am the managing director of a company with an ROC, and can therefore legally operate RPAS in civil airspace for commercial purposes. It took blood, sweat and tears over many years to achieve this. I respect the rule of law and am passionate about legal compliance – to my own peril as I recently realised.

Since obtaining an ROC, we started marketing to surveyors to provide a value-added service to them. To my dismay I found that many surveyors registered with the South African Geomatics Council do not respect the laws of our country outside of the geomatics industry. Instead of becoming my clients, they became my illegal (criminal) competition. My core market became my illegal competition for their own business.

I have no desire to start reporting each surveyor to the police, and doubt much will come of it. However, if I do nothing my company will close its doors for business.

I write this letter with an open invitation to Geomatics Professionals to respond: Since Geomatics Professionals in general do not bother with aviation legislation, and illegally fly drones to add value to their clients, will the Geomatics industry mind if I start selling myself as a Professional Surveyor? I promise I’ll make sure that my deliverables are on par with the quality of a Geomatics Professional and that I will follow industry best practices.

I ask this in all honesty, because one way or another I must protect my civil right to earn a living as enshrined in the Constitution, and the Geomatics industry as it behaves today is preventing me from doing so. If these professionals agree that my proposal is reasonable my company stands a chance to survive.

ROC Holder

re: Surveyors conducting illegal drone surveys

Dear Editor

In response to the ROC holder’s letter about surveyors conducting illegal drone surveys, a number of questions are raised.

Statutory legislation often reserves work for certain persons for the orderly/safe functioning of society. Cadastral work is one such area, as is the ability to fly a drone for commercial purposes since one needs a RPAS Operators Certificate. The law is simple: no person may fly drones commercially without an ROC, just as no person may undertake any cadastral work unless they are a registered land surveyor. Any Geomatics practitioner flying a drone is considered commercial use in my view.

People get away with many things, unless reported. If nothing is reported, people cannot act on such instances.

If a geomatics practitioner were reported to the South African Geomatics Council (SAGC) in respect of flying a drone without an ROC, the SAGC would have to first investigate it in terms of its code of conduct, and then charge the person. In this last respect, I could see a number of clauses of the code of conduct being violated by the registered person. Of course, other remedies exist. The matter can also be taken to the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) and they could criminally prosecute the operator. When lodging a complaint with the SAGC, the sanctions are limited with the most extreme being to potentially have one’s license removed.

I do not hold the view that such matters must be deferred to the SACAA. Of course, if a complaint is lodged with the SACAA and SAGC, then both must take their course. The fact that a court finds one innocent on a matter does not mean that the SAGC would have to come to the same conclusion – the two authorities are totally unrelated. For example, in court one is charged with not having an ROC, but from the perspective of the SAGC one is charged with a different rule relating to the SAGC Code of Conduct – which could be “bringing the profession into disrepute”.

At the end of the day, if people don’t report people, the situation will never change. I am sorry to say this, but it usually takes one complaint with real implications before compliance is achieved.

Peter Newmarch
SAGI President

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