Drone interim regulations ready before March 2015

June 5th, 2014, Published in Articles: PositionIT, Featured: PositionIT


The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has announced that it will have its unmanned aerial systems (UAS) interim guidance document ready before the end of March 2015. The interim guidance document is intended to be a provisional solution enabling restricted operational approval of UAS on a case-by-case basis, until maturity is attained by both the industry and the SACAA.

The SACAA revealed this information in a statement issued on 3 June 2014 to put the record straight regarding the use of UAS or drones, as they are more commonly referred to, in South Africa.

Justifying the delay in providing a regulatory environment for legal UAS use in South Africa, the aviation authority revealed that there is growing evidence that territories that rushed to have unmanned aircraft systems introduced to their airspaces without proper regulation in place are now battling to ensure safety in the sector and are inundated with incidents that border on aviation catastrophes.

The SACAA wants to avoid a similar situation occurring in South Africa, and believes that commercial or other gains should not be pushed ahead of realistic potential loss of life, intentional or otherwise.

In the statement the SACAA also announced that reports suggesting that the SACAA had recently issued a notice banning the use of unmanned aircraft systems specifically in the film industry are beset with inaccuracies.

The SACAA denies ever issuing any specific notice or regulation banning the use of unmanned aircraft systems.

“The fact is that, since its inception, the SACAA has never issued any specific notice or regulation banning the use of unmanned aircraft systems,” says Phindiwe Gwebu, Senior Manager: Communications at the SACAA.

“The current Civil Aviation Regulations prescribe specific requirements for operating an aircraft in the South African airspace. To date, no UAS has been able to comply with these requirements. It should also be noted that the SACAA has not given any concession or approval to any organisation, individual, institution or government entity to operate UAS within the civil aviation airspace.

“Those that are flying any type of unmanned aircraft are doing so illegally. The current civil aviation regulations mandate the SACAA to ensure safety and security in relation to any flying activities in the Republic. This equally pertains to UAS, and with the intent of protecting the citizens of South Africa from the numerous risks posed by unapproved operation of UAS.”

She goes on to state: “Having noticed an upsurge in the number of entities and individuals that are disregarding applicable civil aviation rules, on 2 April 2014 the SACAA issued a media statement informing individuals and/or organisations that are already operating UAS in the South African civil aviation airspace that they are doing so illegally.

“This media statement was met with positive response, particularly from the majority of professional aviators and official organisations representing individuals and entities with vested interest in the UAS sector. A common message that resonated from these stakeholders was their eagerness to comply with applicable laws and where necessary to work hand-in-hand with the SACAA in order to take the UAS sector forward. “

“On the other hand, the media statement was also met with misguided hostility. There were also attempts to reduce the SACAA’s safety and security concern to a debate between UAS and toys that generally do not require any operating permission from any government agency, “ she adds.

“The SACAA would like to re-iterate that it is mandated to ensure aviation safety and security for all South Africans, a fact that a small group of individuals chose to ignore. Whilst it is understandable that unmanned aircraft might appeal to the non-traditional aviators, it is imperative to have a basic understanding of the aviation sector and how it is regulated in order to grasp the true safety implications and the remedy of these concerns,” she said.

To view the 3 June 2014 SACAA statement: click here

To view the 2 April 2014 SACAA statement: click here

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