SA Civil Aviation Authority to crackdown on illegal drone flying


The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) says it is set to clampdown on the illegal flying, in civil airspace, of unmanned aircraft, with heavy fines for those who break the law.

The move was prompted by recent reports suggesting people and organisations are flying or intending to fly drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)/unmanned aerial systems (UASs) in South African civil aviation airspace.
“It is disconcerting to hear that there are individuals or organisations that, for some reason or another, are determined to contravene applicable international and local aviation prescripts. The fact is that the SACAA has not given any concession or approval to any organisation, individual, institution or government entity to operate UAS within the civil aviation airspace. Those that are flying any type of unmanned aircraft are doing so illegally; and as the regulator we cannot condone any form of blatant disregard of applicable rules,” said the Director of Civil Aviation, Poppy Khoza.

The SACAA said it needed to put regulations in place which will deal with all the regulatory facets relating to UAVs.
“Unmanned aircraft systems are relatively a new component of the civil aviation framework, one which the SACAA, together with other regulators worldwide and under the guidance of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, are working to understand, define and ultimately integrate in to the civil aviation sector. As such, the process of developing policies, procedures, regulations and associated standards in order to certify and subsequently authorise operation of UAS is currently in progress,” Khoza explained.

South Africa as an International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) member is involved in the ICAO Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Group to develop regulations for UAVs and is working with the industry and relevant agencies to draft appropriate regulations, the body said.
“As much as we are enthusiastic about the integration of UAS into the civilian airspace, we need to be mindful of various security and safety aspects. Key among these is the need to ensure that the technology installed on UAS is able to detect and avoid incidents and accidents. We also need to develop robust standards that will ensure separation from other aircraft or objects. There is also a need to ensure that the allocated frequency spectrum is secure in order to ensure protection from unintentional or unlawful interference with the UAS,” Khoza elaborated.
“The SACAA acknowledges that the current civil aviation legislation does not provide for certification, registration and/or operation of UAS in the South African civil aviation airspace. We are also cognizant of the urgent need and demand for UAS usage for commercial and many other reasons. Hence, the SACAA has allocated the necessary resources to the UAS programme to ensure a speedy integration of drones into the South Africa airspace. However, until then we would like to appeal to those that are disregarding the laws to desist from such actions,” Khoza concluded.

Until regulations have been put in place, anyone operating a UAV could face a R50 000 fine or up to ten years in prison, or both, News24 reports.