RPAS in, UAVs out – SACAA


The SA Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has decided its quest to legalise unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in South Africa will see them called remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS).

“This notice serves as an update on the status of the development of regulations pertaining to remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS). The acronyms UAS (unmanned aircraft system), UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) and remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) are phrases and terms used interchangeably but generally describe the same sector of aviation,” according to the Authority’s website.
“These acronyms refer to an aircraft which does not have a pilot on board as well as its associated systems that enable the aircraft to fly. The term remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) will be utilised by the CAA when referring to this particular sector of aviation”.

The CAA has to regulate civil aviation activities to ensure “acceptable levels of aviation safety and security in South Africa and among operators”.

When it comes to RPAS operations locally, the CAA has not granted any approval to any entity or individual “due to the significant and real safety and security risks presented by this new sector of aviation”.

CAA said it had made “considerable progress” as regards drafting an interim guiding document to help with RPAS authorisations.
“This document will provide certain standards for compliance by all prospective RPAS operators to operate RPAS in South African airspace. Further research will commence soon and will be done in collaboration with a State-owned entity.
“Among others, the research will determine the feasibility and ease of use of the still to be set standards.”

CAA will work on turning the interim guiding document into proposed RPAS regulations, technical standards and technical guidance material while research work is underway.
“On completion of the conversion process, CAA will make the draft regulations available for public comment and follow existing regulation development processes to promulgate the new regulations as part of the overall South African civil aviation regulations,” the Authority said adding it envisaged the new regulations would be available soon after the end of the current financial year on March 31, 2015.

Adding to the alphabet soup of the CAA’s RPAS, is the Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Association of Southern Africa (CUAASA).

Its aim is to serve promote, watch over, advance and mutually protect the interest of the commercial unmanned aircraft industry and to act as a link between the industry and government, government agencies and other public bodies within the Southern African region.

On its website CUASSA says it was formed to assist its members to obtain a sound legal basis for their operations in anticipation of a new legal framework for unmanned aerial system (UAS) operations in South Africa.