RocketMine becomes SA mining sector’s first licensed UAV operator


Aerial data solutions provider RocketMine has become the first commercial unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operator to be given approval to operate in the mining sector by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).

The company, a division of Public Display Technologies (PDT), announced that it had received its Commercial Operating licence for remotely piloted aircraft on 16 October.
“Using drones to conduct operational duties has produced high quality data in a fraction of the time and at a percentage of the costs. In the mining industry in particular, most high risk tasks conducted by our drones have eliminated the safety risk for mining staff”, explained Chris Clark, RocketMine Division Head.
“There is no doubt that drones are set to revolutionise the way in which many key industries in South Africa conduct their business.”

Albert Msithini, Manager of Unmanned Aircraft Systems at the SACAA, said that the department was delighted to issue PDT the licence. “PDT is among the first organizations that regularly engaged the SACAA with regards to development and promulgation of the RPAS [Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems] regulations. The journey involved various robust debates over the development phase, which ended in February of 2015 when the draft regulations were submitted to the Minister of Transport for approval. The regulations were approved and became effective on 1 July 2015” Msithini explains.

In May 2015 SACAA Director Poppy Khoza announced that the commercial use of UAVs would be regulated from 1 July 2015.

In the first two months since South Africa’s new UAV regulations were instituted the SACAA registered 118 UAVs, issued 10 remote pilot licences and received 10 applications for UAV training organisations.

In September, Gauteng-based ProWings Training became the first flying school in South Africa to be approved by the SACAA as a commercial UAV training organisation.

The first UAV pilot’s license was issued to Nicole Swart on 10 July, making her the first person to receive such a licence in South Africa, the continent, and most parts of the world as many countries are still striving to come up with regulations to administer UAVs.

South Africa is one of a handful of countries around the world to have introduced comprehensive regulations to guide UAV operations.