Minister signs off on drone regulations

May 17th, 2015, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: PositionIT

 

South Africa’s drone regulations will be officially published and implementable on 1 July 2015. This was announced on 17 May 2015 by the director of civil aviation, Poppy Khoza, who revealed that the minister of transport has signed the RPAS regulations.

The news follows months of amendments, refining and incorporating of requests from various stakeholders during robust debates at Civil Aviation Regulation Committee (CARCom) meetings. Khoza thanked all who had provided valuable inputs on the regulations including relevant state entities, industry role players, RPAS operators and manufacturers, and other airspace users.

CAA RPAS

Director of Civil Aviation, Poppy Khoza, announcing that the RPAS regulations will become effective as from 1 July 2015

“Under normal circumstances the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) would take the lead in terms of developing standards and recommended practices, and regulators would then transliterate the prescribed standards and recommended practices into legally enforceable local civil aviation regulations,” she said. “However, in the absence of guiding documents from ICAO, South Africa’s regulators have had to swiftly derive measures to address the regulation deficiency in response to a growing demand to regulate the sector.”

The RPAS regulations become effective on 1 July 2015, and Khoza stated that the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) will be using the intervening weeks to put the finishing touches to internal processes required to provide the necessary approvals, and also to ensure that the enforcement processes are in place. (For a summarised overview of the RPAS regulations see South African RPAS Regulations – One giant leap for (un)manned kind)

Khoza revealed that the SACAA would be conducting nationwide industry workshops to discuss the implementation of the regulations. She also reiterated that the regulatory body is responsible for ensuring the safety and security of civil aviation, and all inputs on the regulations are tested against this ultimate objective.

Responding to the announcement that the RPAS regulations would be implemented from 1 July 2015, the president of the Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Association of South Africa (CUAASA), Hennie Kieser, said that the RPAS regulations were world-class but expressed concern that the complexity and costs relating to the application process would hamper the development and growth of the RPAS industry.

CUAASA

CUAASA President Hennie Kieser addressing the media at Grand Central Airport

Subash Devkaran, Senior Manager: Aircraft Certification Division at the SACAA, stated the regulator is doing its best to keep costs as low as practically possible but that it is necessary to recover the costs of approving applications. “To provide a good regulatory service, we need to be well funded,” he said. “The usual route to recover costs is through ticket prices and fuel levies, but this is not possible with the RPAS industry.”

“What is important to us is the development of a sustainable RPAS sector, and we can only do this if the citizens see this industry as safe,” he added.

Devkaran further explained that the SACAA has developed an application form and will be utilising the entire resources of the CAA to integrate the RPAS applications. Asked about CUAASA’s proposal at its recent AGM to host a workshop to assist its members with completing the application forms, he said, “the CAA is in favour of any process that assists in ensuring well-completed applications.” This, he said, would avoid delays by reducing the need to return incomplete and/or incorrect applications.

During the SACAA media briefing, the director of civil aviation pointed out that the rapid pace of technological development has necessitated that the RPAS regulatory framework be treated as a continual work in progress.

“We will continue to engage with industry to refine the regulations when, where and as deemed necessary,” she said. “We will also take into account what ICAO will propose – when they are ready – as globally accepted standards and recommended practices.”

Khoza added that the CAA has an enforcement section and it is working closely with security agencies and the intelligence community to police the RPAS industry. Breaches of the RPAS regulations could result in offenders receiving jail sentences of 10 years and/or a R50 000 fine. She also revealed that a public awareness campaign is set to get underway in August to educate the general public on the do’s and don’ts relating to “drone” usage in South Africa.

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