State of the drone industry in South Africa

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DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ in flight

 

by Emil Henrico

It all started with a friend of mine starting a commercial drone company. They have two Sky rangers, two Phantom 2 Vision, and two Inspire 1 drones.

I started helping them fly the drones and train some pilots. I am a private pilot with around 600 hours, and busy working on my commercial pilots license. I am also a Remote Control instructor in both fixed wing and Helicopters.

I know the people at the South-African CAA well, and a couple of meetings were held with them. Around the middle of last year they published a law to say that until there are regulation in place, they will not allow any commercial use of drones in South Africa.

I believe with proper training, we will have a safe environment
and airspace for both aircraft and drones.

Since then, they published draft regulations that state that you need to have a RPL (Remote Pilots License). To obtain this you need to have a Class 4 Medical, a radio license, write 3 PPL subjects and then undergo training on the said drone. After a couple more meetings with them I came up with the idea that we could do the training from a commercial flight school. This will give drone pilots the chance to see the lives and training of commercial pilots, and commercial pilots the same for drone pilots. I feel this will build mutual respect between the two. This is essential, as we will be sharing the same airspace.

We are now waiting for the final regulations to be written in our CAA LAW. Once this has been done, we will run a pilot program to see where the shortfalls are.

After we address the shortfalls we will then have a flight school to offer training to both private and commercial drone pilots.

I am currently talking with the likes of DJI global to become the provider for training schools in South Africa.

I believe with proper training, we will have a safe environment and airspace for both aircraft and drones. Even though the drones are so capable that anyone can fly one, we will still need training to make flying safer and so that everyone using them will understand emergency procedures.

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