No-fly zones for drones
Since regulation was passed in 2015, remotely-piloted aircraft systems or drones have become a must have for photographers and videographers. A video or photo series just doesn't seem complete without aerial footage.
As drones become more accessible to the public, it's important to know that there are rules and regulations when it comes to flying a drone, as well as safety precautions that need to be followed.
The South African Civil Aviation Authority’s (SACAA) introduced laws for Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) that covers where you can and can't fly a drone, as well as rules around licensing.
What are the rules?
When flying a drone, it's important to ensure the safety of everyone in the vicinity you’re flying. Also consider the privacy of your neighbours and the safety of their property.
The SACAA prohibits flying a Remotely Piloted Aircraft, or toy aircraft 50m or closer from:
- Any person or group of persons (like a sports field, road races, schools, social events, etc.)
- Any property without permission from the property owner.
Unless authorised by the SACAA, you can't fly/operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft or toy aircraft -
- near a manned aircraft,
- 10km or closer to an aerodrome (airport, helipad, airfield),
- that weighs more than 7kg,
- in controlled airspace,
- in restricted airspace, or
- in prohibited airspace.
Remotely Piloted Aircraft, or toy aircraft shouldn’t be piloted higher than 45m from the ground, unless approved by the Director of Civil Aviation of the SACAA.
Should you get a license?
If you're flying a drone as a hobby (personal and private use) then a license is not required, however you still have to follow the South African Civil Aviation Authority’s (SACAA) regulations on Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS).
If you'd like to obtain a license from the SACAA to fly commercially, you'll be required to obtain aviation training at an approved training organisation (ATO).
The following requirements are compulsory when applying for a pilot license:
- An applicant shouldn't be less than 18 years of age.
- Applicants must hold current medical assessments.
- An ATO for training must be identified.
- Foreign theoretical training will be approved and validated (ASK).
- Only successful completion will be accepted.
- Applicants must pass the RPL practical assessment.
- Applicants must also pass Radiotelephony Examination.
- Achieved English Language Proficiency (ELP) level 4 or higher.
- All applications must be submitted to the SACAA.
For more about licensing visit SACAA.
Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind when flying a drone:
- A public road can't be used for the take-off or landing of a drone.
- If the weather conditions are poor, don't fly your drone.
- Always give way to manned aircraft and don't pass over, under or in front of manned aircraft.
- Drones can't be used to transport cargo or make deliveries.
- Drones can't tow another aircraft, perform aerial or aerobatic displays or be flown in formation or swarm.
- All incidents involving an RPA must be reported, especially where there is an injury to a person; damage to property; or destruction of the RPA beyond economical repair.
There are a number of no-fly zones in South Africa. As mentioned earlier you can't fly a drone above or adjacent to military zones, aerodromes, airports and helipads. Other no-fly zones include:
- a nuclear power plant
- a prison
- a police station
- a crime scene
- a court of law
- national key points
Drones can't be flown in national parks and protected/conservation areas. This is because some visitors use their drones to disturb or chase wild animals. Only drones used for wildlife conservation and research purposes are allowed, subject to special permission.
No-fly zones for drones in South Africa
VIDEO: Here's what you need to know about flying a drone in SA