also sometimes referred to as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, are becoming
increasingly popular amongst the civilian population. This is due to the fact
that it is becoming widely available and increasingly affordable. Drone
manufacturers are catering for all different types of consumers and different
budgets, with some drone models retailing at less than a R1 000.00. This is
good news for drone enthusiasts or those just looking for a fun past time
activity. However, this increased popularity and accessibility means that more
and more people own drones which result in increased drone activity in our
airspace – which could cause chaos.
at big international airports such as Heathrow and Gatwick have illustrated the
chaos which can be caused by drones when operated illegally and irresponsibly. Numerous
flights were suspended between 19 and 21 December 2018 at Gatwick Airport, Britain’s
second-biggest hub, after drones were spotted in the vicinity of the airport in
order to ensure the safety of the aircraft and passengers. This led to the
disruption of thousands of travellers during the festive period.
One must distinguish
between the operation of drones for commercial purposes vis-a-vis recreational purposes. The regulation of commercial drone
operations (i.e., whenever a drone is used for commercial gain) does not fall
within the scope of this article. However, readers are warned that one must
have a Remote Pilot Licence when operating a drone for commercial purposes, and
such a drone must be registered.
remainder of this article will discuss how the use of drones for recreational
purposes are regulated in South Africa. The South African Civil Aviation
Authority (“SACAA”) has issued regulations which must be complied with when
operating a drone for recreational purposes. You are not, according to these
regulations, allowed to fly your drone in a manner which will in any way
endanger the safety of another aircraft or person. This means that you are not
- Fly your drone within 50 metres of a person or group
of people. The regulations list sports fields, social events and schools as examples
of places where you will be in contravention of this regulation should you fly
- Fly your drone within 50 metres of any property, unless you have obtained the consent of the property owner.
regulations further regulate the usage of drones for recreational purposes by
imposing the following restrictions:
- You are not allowed to fly near any manned
- You are not allowed to fly within a 10 km radius
of any aerodrome (i.e. any airport, helipad, or airfield).
- Drones for recreational usage may not weigh more
than 7 kg.
- You are not allowed to operate your drone within
any restricted, controlled or prohibited airspace.
Operating a drone more than 150 ft from the ground is
regulations furthermore require drone operators to always maintain a visual
line of sight with their drones when flying. This means that you must always be
able to see your drone. Drone enthusiasts must only operate their drones in
daylight and in clear weather conditions and should always inspect their drone
before a flight.
It is of
utmost importance to comply with the above regulations in order to ensure that
you do not incur liability for any damages caused to people or their property.
Readers are encouraged to do the necessary research in order to ensure that
there are no regulations or by-laws which apply to their specific geographical
area, since some local authorities may have specific restrictions in place.