Legalise… Get drone wise

Mr Twala further said that, should a person be caught flying a drone unlicensed, there is a hefty penalty of R50 000.00 or 10-years jail sentence.

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“The scary thing about the future… there will be tiny cameras everywhere and they’ll be flying around like mosquitoes and drones. That will be bad. Drones are scary. You can’t reason with a drone.” Matt Groening
On Thursday, 20 June, The Bulletin team was invited to the launch of SAFU (South African Federation for Unmanned Aircraft Systems) in Kyalami, Johannesburg. The event was hosted at The Private Room and all who attended were dressed to a T! The atmosphere was one of excitement. The Bulletin team also had the privilege to interview the chairperson, secretariat and other influential people in the drone business.
What is SAFU?
“The South African Federation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SAFU) is a non-profit Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) industry federation comprised of organised individual companies and associate members to advance the interests of affiliated companies and the UAS industry in general.” (https://www.safuas.co.za/)
The members of SAFU are all licenced drone companies. SAFU was founded by NTSU Aviation Solutions and associate members: Rocketmine, UAV and Drone Solutions and Compact Aerial Services. The other members are: Salaria, Skyhook, FC Hamman Films and Scarab Drones. These companies all are in possession of an ROC (Required Obstacle Clearance) and an ASL (Air Service Licence).
The chairperson of SAFU, Mr Sam Twala, spoke at the event and said that they would like to find common ground between the industry and the SACAA (South African Civil Aviation Authority). It also states on the SAFU website: “We are not an enforcement agency. We pride ourselves on factual EDUCATIONAL AWARENESS.” They also hope to improve on Part 101 which was promulgated in 2015 by the Minister of Transport.
Mr Twala further said that, should a person be caught flying a drone unlicensed, there is a hefty penalty of R50 000.00 or 10-years jail sentence.
The dangers of flying a drone if not licenced are unfathomable. For example: one is not allowed to fly a drone within a 10 km radius of any airfield and should the need arise, the pilot has to apply for a flight plan through the SACAA and have a radio to ensure that she/he can be aware of the air traffic at all times.
In Secunda there is an airfield in town, but yet people are still flying drones and they are flying their drones in the flight path of the aircraft that use this airfield. Not only is it a flight path they fly drones in but they fly in the path of the two most critical phases of flight for any pilot: take-off and landing. Should a drone hit an aircraft, the pilot of the drone is fully liable for all damages and injuries.
Not only is the pilot responsible for any damages and injuries, but the company that hires or makes use of such pilot will also have dire consequences to deal with.
Another concern is the fact that schools use these unlicensed pilots for events. At school events the drone or drones will fly over the children and the crowd. The injuries a drone can cause, if flown untrained, is mindboggling. Anything can happen…
For a pilot to fly at night-time, one has to have a night rating. There are only two companies in South Africa that are qualified to fly at night. A company also has to be registered and have an ROC. The ROC is the RPAS (Remote Piloted Aircraft System) operator’s certificate. Without this the operator is unlicensed or “illegal”.
The bottom line should be that one would not climb into an aircraft and think you can fly. One will attend lessons first. So why not do the same with drones? – Ané Prinsloo

Dale McErlean, Secretariat SAFU
Sam Twala, Chairman SAFU

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