Drone Regulations in South Africa

As is the case world wide, the drone industry continues to expand at a rapid rate. New applications for drones are conceived on a near daily basis, which makes this is a very exciting industry to be part of. Safety is obviously of paramount importance in aviation, and there are very stringent rules and regulations that must be adhered to at all times. This is true for airlines, helicopter operations, sky-diving operators, glider pilots etc. - anyone wishing to use the skies! Drones have the capabilities to fly at high altitudes and high speed as well, which obviously have the potential to cause large amounts of damage should an accident occur. The best way to mitigate these risks is through proper regulation:

On the 1st of July 2015, Part 101: Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems of the Civil Aviation Regulations came into effect. This amendment describes the technical standards and Regulations which apply to commercial, corporate, non-profit and private organisations in the country.

Please read below for general information. Consult the SACAA site for full details.

Personnel Licensing
No person shall operate an RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) unless such person is in possession of a valid Remote Pilot License (RPL)

RPA Registration and approval

  • Each RPA to be operated will require an RPA Letter of Approval as well as a Certificate of Registration issued by the Director of Civil Aviation.
  • Each RPA will be issued with a unique registration mark which shall be affixed to the particular RPA.

RPAS operator certificate (ROC)

  • No person shall operate an RPAS unless such person is the holder of a valid ROC including the operations specifications attached to it.
  • For commercial operations, there is an additional requirement to hold an Air Services License issued in terms of the Air Services Licensing Act, 1990 (Act No. 115 of 1990).
  • Each ROC applicant shall develop for approval by the SACAA, an operations manual containing all information required to demonstrate how such operator will ensure compliance with the regulations and how safety standards will be applied and achieved during such operations.
  • The ROC holder shall take specified security steps to safeguard the RPA from acts of unlawful interference and shall also conduct background checks on all personnel recruited for RPAS operations.

General Restrictions

Unless specifically approved by the SACAA, the following operating limitations will apply

  • RPAS classified higher than Class 1 and 2
  • Operations where objects or substances will be released, dispensed, dropped, delivered or deployed from and RPA
  • Carriage of Dangerous Goods
  • Operations in inclement weather conditions
  • B-VLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Site) operations
  • Use of a public road as a place of take-off and landing of an RPA
  • Operations in controlled airspace
  • Operations within a radius of 10kms from an aerodrome
  • Operations within restricted or prohibited airspace
  • Operations adjacent of above a nuclear power plant, prison, police station, crime scene, court of law, national key point or strategic installation
  • Night operations
  • Operations overhead any person or group of people within a lateral distance of 50m
  • Operations within a lateral distance of 50m from any structure or building
  • operations over a public road, along the length of a public road or at a lateral distance of less than 50m from a public road