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Banned Use & Legality of Flying Drones in SA

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Are they banned and is it legal to fly drones in South Africa? Well, sort of. At the moment drones carrying cameras are banned (in SA) from commercial use entirely, but it looks like it’s not entirely illegal to fly your drone for fun, and if you follow certain precautions.

With the increase in popularity of drones for all uses both recreational and commercial, it was only a matter of time before South Africa caught up with the rest of the world in putting a ban on these super fun, flying gadgets.

The official South African distributor of Parrot AR Drone  had this to say about the matter:

As the official distributors of Parrot products, including the Parrot AR.Drone, in South Africa, we would like to put recent published articles into perspective. These articles wrote about a ban on “drones” and that it is now illegal to fly them.

Let’s look at each point raised in the recent articles:

1. “The use of flying drones with mounted cameras has been banned with immediate effect in South Africa by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA). This makes it illegal for any TV news operation, productions doing film shoots, people shooting documentaries, TV series or film agencies to use drones.” From this statement one can conclude that the commercial use of drones is applicable and that recreational, fun flight, within the guidelines, seems to be excluded.

2. “If approved, the policy will require adopting the below guidelines, which are similar to those used in Europe and Australia:
– Flying only under 120m
– No flying within 4.2 nautical miles of an airport
– Flying only in line of sight of the operator (500m)
– No auto pilot flying or night flying
– No flying over public property and roads without permission.”

The above guidelines are very specific and also more applicable to commercial drones as such. The Parrot AR.Drone is controlled via Wi-Fi and as such, there are limitation in terms of the range at which it can be controlled and the range is a maximum of 50m, under optimal conditions. The Parrot AR.Drone is not capable of autonomous flight, although stabilisation is automatic, and also, the AR.Drone is not capable of night-flying, due to the use of a camera for stabilisation.

Two main points can be concluded: 1) there are specific product related guidelines in the proposed legislation and the AR.Drone clearly falls outside the guidelines that are referred to, and 2) there is an emphasis placed on the “pilot’s responsibility” to operate these devices within the framework of the regulations, and this emphasis has nothing to do with the actual product.

From the above, we feel that the Parrot AR.Drone, in standard form, as sold locally, and without modification, falls outside of the proposed ban, and as such, provided that the guidelines are adhered to, can be safely sold and flown, without any recourse.

In my opinion, unmanned Drones (the hi-tech military type) have such a wide application and it seems over the top to ban them for commercial use entirely. The war on Rhino poaching, and the surveillance industry in general benefits hugely from having an aerial vantage point.

But enforcing such a law is an entirely different battle altogether – and you have to wonder how the SACAA is going to do this. But probably best watch out for the Drone Police next time you’re filming your neighbours’ pool party.

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About Author

Lover of gadgets, men's culture, cool stuff, Earl Grey tea and all things manly. An optimist in his prime. When he's not keeping the wheels turning at Mantality HQ you'll find him trawling the web, and visiting trade shows to find the newest and coolest gadgets. During his down time he's usually with his 2 dogs, on the golf course, cycling or basking in the literary company of Oscar Wilde, Bret Easton Ellis or Martin Amis whilst drinking espresso strong enough to strip paint.

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