On the 17th of May 2015, the Director of the South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced that South Africa would introduce new regulations that will govern the use of remotely piloted aircraft systems, more commonly known as drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters, recently signed these regulations into law and the 1st of July 2015 marks the day when they will be implemented.
Civil society organisations all over the world have been in an uproar of late about under-regulated drone use as the low costs of flying drones presents aerial surveillance risks and impacts on various privacy rights of citizens. The United States military drone strikes on targets in Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan has also given this type of technology a bad reputation, whilst the risk of these aircrafts malfunctioning and falling out of the sky presents real safety risks.
The sensible implementation of regulations in South Africa is expected to increase drone development with potentially huge benefits for a number of industries, for example the security industry. Other good uses for this kind of technology is in the development of the Quadcopter drone, developed for the monitoring and reducing the current scourge of rhino poaching in South Africa. Drones can also be useful when deployed in disaster management situations where public safety needs outweigh the rights to privacy. But this is a dangerous territory and will require a balance between privacy and the rights to use this technology for emergencies and national security.
South Africa is very confident in the regulations for drone use that have been developed, citing South Africa’s International Civil Aviation Organisation as having a rating which is higher than the world’s 80% average, they did not want to compromise this rating in the development of these rules and regulations. The Minister of Transport stated that South Africa does not wish to compromise this record in the conception of these regulations and national safety and security needs were taken into account during the drafting of them. This is depicted by some of the regulations, which are currently public knowledge when it comes to the use of drones, such as the restrictions that exist relating to where drones can be flown. Drones will be prohibited from flying over a long list of areas including crime scenes, courts, national key points, police stations, etc.
The regulations will also include a number of rules pertaining to the eligibility of the drone pilots. Drone pilots will require a valid license; they will be at least eighteen years of age, hold a valid medical class four certificate for beyond visual line of sight operations or operations involving drones which are rated as class three or higher. Alternatively they would need to have in possession, a restricted certificate of proficiency in aeronautical radiotelephony and the pilot would also have to prove they are fluent in English at proficiency level of four or higher.
This is an exciting era in the development of drones and will prove to be a catalyst in the development of innovations in drone applications.