News / South Africa

2 minute read
24 Feb 2018
10:01 am

Understand drone laws in South Africa


Drones are viewed as aircraft, and as such must abide by laws similar to those of manned aircraft.

A recent article of a Kruger National Park (KNP) day visitor flying a drone in the region, published in the Letaba Herald, has highlighted the need to reiterate the importance of adhering to drone laws in South Africa.

The day visitor, who flew his drone over a troop of baboons in the Letaba Rest Camp region in the KNP, was swiftly detained by SAPS as he was exiting the park.

His drone was spotted by other visitors, who took photos and called Karien Keet, section manager of Phalaborwa, who called security officers to barricade the visitor, driving a blue Audi, at the gate.

The visitor has now incurred a lifetime ban from the KNP.

This could have been avoided, had the visitor adhered to permit rules and familiarised himself with the ban of drones in the KNP, as well as drone laws in general.

KNP media specialist Ike Phaahla explained that apart from the illegality of flying drones in any national parks, visitors getting out of their vehicles and disturbing wildlife are serious issues as well.

“Not only is this a contravention of the Nema Protected Areas Act, but there are also restrictions in terms of the aerial filming rights and therefore an infringement of SANParks’ filming/photography policy.”

But drone laws are a bit more complex and confusing than being banned at national parks, something people ought to have realised, especially in light of the amount of poaching currently underway in most national parks across the country.

We consulted drone laws in South Africa. Here are some key points:

According to Action Gear, certain laws set up for remotely piloted aircraft mean that you are choosing to operate your drone either for private use, under hobby laws, or for commercial use.

These laws imply that individuals may only use drones for personal or private use, with no commercial outcome, interest or gain.

Hobby laws also mean that certain requirements must be adhered to:

  • Drones are not permitted to fly within 10km of an airport, helipad or airstrip
  • Drones must operated in daylight, in clear weather conditions
  • Drones may not be operated when intoxicated
  • Drones may not be flown within 50m of any person, property or public road

It is also essential that drone enthusiasts obtain their remote pilot’s license, a crucial step in ensuring that drone pilots are licensed and equipped with adequate knowledge, flight skills and safety skills needed to fly drones safely and legally.

Commercial drones require additional certifications and exams, such as obtaining an air service licence from the Department of Transport, as well as a remote operator’s certificate from the South African Civil Aviation Authority.

Life ban for drone-flying visitor in the KNP

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