• Do not need an RPL (Remote Pilots Licence).
  • Do not need to register their RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems) aircraft.
  • Do not need an aviation medical.
  • Can fly RPAS up to 7kg weight.
  • Can fly at night (previous not allowed for any RC aircraft).
  • Can fly up to the height of the highest object in 300m of the drone (up to a max of 400 feet).
  • Can fly up to 500m away from the pilot, while maintaining direct line of sight (RVLOS).
  • Need to keep more than 50m from people.
  • Need to keep more than 50m from roads.
  • Need to keep more than 50m from buildings.
  • Need to keep more than 10km from airports.
  • May not fly in No Fly Zones.

 If one wants to operate a drone for anything other than private use, the drone must first be approved and registered by the South African Civil Aviation Authority while the operator will require a RPA pilot’s licence.

Acquiring the licence requires medical certification, certification of radiotelephony, English proficiency, flight training, and passing both a theoretical examination and skills test, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr said.

The licence is valid for 24 months and applicants must be over 18 years old.

The licence holder will also have to undergo a revalidation check 90 days prior to the expiry of the licence in order to renew it.

RPA licences may be issued in three categories: aeroplane, helicopter or multi-rotor.

Similar to conventional aircraft licencing, additional rating may be endorsed on a licence including visual line-of-sight operations, extended visual line-of-sight operations and beyond visual line-of-sight operations.

Under the new laws, RPA pilots will also be required to maintain a pilot logbook detailing each flight.

And if those regulations appear strict, the regulations to operate an entire Remotely Piloted Aircraft System are worse, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr said.

They include:

  • licencing with a lifespan of 12 months at a time;
  • requirements to report to the Director of Civil Aviation; and
  • the development of an operations manual indicating how they intend to comply with the regulations (which further include requirements to do background and criminal checks on staff, adequate document security and third party liability insurance).

The general regulations on the use of any drone – including for private use – also includes the following:

  • restricts alcohol consumption, require pre-flight preparations;
  • limits the operation to a lateral distance of 50m from any structure or public road;
  • requires that the operator maintains at least a 10% surplus fuel reserve;
  • requires a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher within 300m of the take-off and landing point/s;
  • considering traffic, drones must always give way to manned aircraft.

Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr noted that the practical applications of RPA are endless making regulation of the industry was inevitable, especially given the fact that other jurisdictions lag behind on regulating the drone industry.

“The regulations evidently aim to manage drones in the civil sphere with a significant emphasis on safety and training. The infinite applications of RPA require stringent regulation, especially considering the lack of an international framework and the infancy of the industry,” it said.

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