Are drones legal in South Africa: what the law really says -

edited June 2014 in Site discussion

imageAre drones legal in South Africa: what the law really says -

Desert Wolf's controversial crowd control drone would not be able to take off under South African law.

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  • Some other relevant definitions:
    “night” means the period from 15 minutes after sunset to 15 minutes before sunrise, sunset
    and sunrise being as given in the publication “Times of Sunrise, Sunset and Local Apparent
    Noon of the South African Astronomical Observatory” or a similar publication issued by a
    recognised astronomical observatory;

    “helicopter” means a heavier-than-air aircraft supported in flight mainly by the reactions of the air on one or more power-driven rotors on substantially vertical axes;

    (A multirotor can clearly be described by the definition of a helicopter, unlike claimed by some other articles)

    Part 24 of the Civil Aviation Regulations (CAR) also specifically apply to "unmanned aerial vehicles" and not to "model aircraft", (See 24.01.1 (1)(g) and (k) and 24.01.2 (1)) and it seems to require registration of UAVs as a result. (Keeping in mind that a multirotor for recreational / sporting use is a "model aircraft" and for other uses, it is an "unmanned aerial vehicle"). (Just an example of a case where the commercial use have additional requirements)
  • Good point. Reading section 24 again, it does look like that should be interpreted to allow for special use permits for UAVs if SACAA wanted it to. Will try and find out why they haven't chosen to interpret it that way - I'm not a lawyer, but I think it's because it then goes on to reference SA-CATS 24 in all the relative points, and UAVs aren't clearly defined in there.
  • In fact, going through CATS24 again, it doesn't mention UAVs at all. So I'd guess this must be the sticking point. The regulations essentially say you can licence UAVs if they meet with CATS24 spec, but there is no spec in CATS24.
  • Correct, so it needs to be licensed under some kind of special exemption... (Or comply to all regulations that it is not specifically excluded from...)
  • This part of SA-CATS 24 is therefore what applies to UAVs:

    15.1 Design Standards
    Non-type certificated aircraft other than those provided for in the above sections 3 to 14 shall meet the
    design criteria of either amateur-built aircraft or production-built aircraft.
  • Also posted some things on MyBB after their article indicated that there is a requirement to belong to SAMAA / RAASA, with references to relevant SA-CAR... (I really need to complete my overly technical blog post on the subject ;) )
  • I wondered about clause 15 - I'll the CAA guys again why they can't use that to licence UAVs under the general exemption. It does seem a bit odd that they can't do 180 day one-offs for, say, film companies and crop production - if clause 15 applies then there's no legal reason (which would be why they'll be able to after the interim guidelines are published I guess).
  • RE the MyBB article - as far as I know all those groups are part of the process for drawing up the legal framework and are being consulted, but as you say, there's no requirement to belong to them.
  • Also - meant to add in the article that I asked the CAA whether or not the recent notifications were as a result of the French journalist at Mandela's window or the photographs of Nkandla (which weren't from a UAV, but still). The response was "I'm not aware of either of these incidents being reported".
  • The film companies might choose to ignore it, since it likely require most of the systems present on a full-size aircraft...

    It seems that Part 149 of SA-CAR is relevant for RAASA... As a result, it seems like 24.01.2(6) allows RAASA to prescribe technical standards for model aircraft. (I can't find that the have though...)
    Will be interesting how farmers are going to fight for special licensing to put surveilance in place to "patrol' there farms and property . I had requests from farmers if that would be possible to do ?

    They must just draft regulations and issue special licences to have a hitech drone flight rights .....
    I do not think it will become a major issue ....
    There are going to be some advantages , especially with security companies to have drones want to patrol farmland for farmers or farmers itself .
  • New regulations for flying drones in South Africa have been approved, and come into effect from 1 July 2015. Information on the new regulations, and process to comply, can be found here:
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