Progress on regulations for remotely piloted aircraft systems


South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) is progressing toward an anticipated promulgation date of March 31 for remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) regulations.

The deadline for submission of comments for consideration in compiling the regulations was January 5. This followed the publication of draft regulations in December.
“A good number of comments were received from industry including individuals, aviation consultants, manufacturers, suppliers as well as government and academic institutes,” said Sandy Motale, Manager: Communications at SACAA.
“All inputs are currently being dealt with through the SACAA/industry rulemaking process,” she said adding the March 31, 2015, implementation date was not an “enforcement” one but rather “an anticipated promulgation date to be followed by implementation.

The sub-committee tasked with reviewing comments and other inputs on RPAs includes industry stakeholders. Motale said no details of the draft regulations, which will in time be inserted into Part 101 of the South African Civil Aviation Regulations, will be made public “pending the outcome of the development process”.

Hennie Kieser, director and chairman of the Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Association of South Africa (CUAASA), told defenceWeb the regulations will be finalised by the end of January and will then go to Transport Minister Dipuo Peters. He hopes the regulations will be law by the end of April, allowing people to go to the Air Services Licensing Council (ASLC) and SACAA to get their UAV/RPAS licenses.

Areas of concern for Kieser and CUAASA as far as the regulations are concerned are UAV/RPA pilot training and staffing.

He believes it will be difficult to train pilots for remotely piloted aircraft as there are currently no training schools where this type of flying training is on offer. Another problem area with pilot training is the hundreds of different UAVs/RPAs on the market. The draft regulations issued by SACAA make provision for three categories of pilot – RPL (A) aeroplane remote pilot licence; RPL (H) helicopter remote pilot licence and RPL (MR) multi-rotor remote pilot licence.

Kieser suggests pilots demonstrate their skills to inspectors. As there are currently no rated or certified UAV/RPAs instructors this could ease a chokehold on growth of this developing aviation sector.

He sees SACAA personnel as being insufficient to handle the “hundreds of applications that will flood in once the regulations become law”. He maintains, that even with a dedicated RPAS team, the first licences will probably only be issued in the third quarter of this year.