Drones are causing quite a stir in the security industry due to their utility in monitoring and responding to alerts almost immediately. They also enable companies to patrol far larger areas faster and more safely than traditional patrols.
In South African law, drones are referred to as Remotely Piloted Aircraft systems (RPAs). There are quite a few laws governing the use of drones for private or commercial use (the laws differ between the private user and the commercial user). Lisa Emma-Iwuoha, an attorney from Michalsons Attorneys joined iLegal 2016 to take on the unenviable task of simplifying the legalities around drones.
Starting off, she explained that drone pilots need a valid RPA pilot’s licence, which is valid for 24 months from the date of issue. To obtain this, the pilot needs to be 18 or older, pass the CAA online theoretical knowledge exam, pass the skills test, complete a medical self-assessment form and be proficient in English.
You can also not fly in bad weather or where your view of the drone is obstructed – although different exemptions cater for this. If you use it for private use, however, you don’t need any of the special classifications or certifications.
Without special permission from the director of Civil Aviation, one is not allowed to fly a drone above a height of 50 metres, or close to a person or people, or a building. If the people are under your control, such as when filming a movie, for example, you can fly above them, and if you have permission you can also approach a building etc. You are also not allowed near or above strategic points, such as nuclear plants, prisons, police stations etc.
South African law says they are not allowed to transport cargo or make deliveries; tow another aircraft, perform aerial displays or fly in formation. Again, this does not apply if you have been granted an exemption.
After Lisa’s short presentation, Dr Craig Donald hosted a panel discussion on drones, where the audience was able to ask the experts any questions related to the technology they might have.
The panel members were:
• Attorney Lisa Emma-Iwuoha,
• Hennie Kieser, EXCO, Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Association of South Africa (CUAASA), and
• Francois Stander, research and resource development, Tshwane Metro Police, City of Tshwane.
The panel was able to expand on the current legalities that affect drone use and explain that any activity using drones for commercial purposes, even it is privately owned, still qualifies as a commercial operation and needs the relevant commercial licence and permissions. They also noted that going through the channels to become an accredited pilot will require a significant investment of both time and money.
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