As of the end of last year South Africa had registered 663 remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) with 686 remote pilot licences (RPLs) issued.
This is according to data provided by the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) and published in a State of Drone Report in South Africa, sponsored by Rocketmine and releasedl ast week.
The report states the growth in number of both RPAS (also known as drones and unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs) and RPLs is in line with February 2017 figures which show 468 RPAS and 368 RPLs.
“In comparison with the growth in RPLs and registered RPAS, the number of approved operators, ROCs (RPAS Operator Certified), and training centres remains low with 20 ROCs and four training centres approved.”
The report notes these numbers are likely to increase due to growing market demand and expertise increasing in the regulatory, operator and training environment.
The most popular drone, according to the report, is the DJI Phantom series which accounts for 29% of RPAS registered last year. Along with the Inspire (13%), EBEE (six percent), Bathawk and Matrice (both three percent) these five models account for 54% of the current registered market. The remaining 46% is divided among more than 100 different models.
Four of 18 ROC operators in South Africa own and operate over 20% of the current registered national fleet of 663 RPAS.
The report also notes “within the top four owners most focus on training, indicating the aim is still to grow the industry significantly through upskilling and equipping”.
Sixty-two percent of RPAS companies utilise drone technology for survey, mapping, inspection as well as film and marketing activities.
Additionally, the report found operators active in the training, film and marketing segments of the drone industry to be the fastest growing ones.
Agriculture, surveillance and security are seen as emerging growth points for South Africa’s drone sector if the SACAA approves more complex operations for remotely piloted aircraft and if the SACAA approves “more complex” operations for unmanned aircraft.