Wanted: registered ATO to train police drone drivers


The SA Police Service (SAPS) is in the process of acquiring 168 UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) or drones, to boost crime fighting and prevention capabilities and called Armscor in to assist with provision of pilot training.

Tender EARO/2022/109 runs to 52 pages, much of it taken up by broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) stipulations and other regulatory issues affecting exchange rates, funding origin, intellectual property (IP) and legal compliance. It calls for a SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) approved training organisation (ATO) for remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) to train the first generation of police on-the-ground pilots.

Documentation shows the SAPS wants qualified trainers to instruct its UAV pilots of what the tender has as multi-rotor (MR) and remotely piloted fixed wing aircraft.

The successful bidder will ensure prospective police UAV pilots undergo visual and beyond visual line of sight training as well as extended visual line of sight training and night flying with instructor rating also a prerequisite.

This and other tender demands are summed up in three words – qualified RPAS pilots – as the deliverable with the appropriate certification for the policemen and women who make the grade. defenceWeb was unable to find any mention of the duration of flying training with the only indicator that the ATO will be appointed for a three year period with training to be done via an “on-demand basis” to be determined by the “readiness of the specific unit” singled out by the tender document as “facilities and available personnel”.

That Minister Bheki Cele’s blue uniformed service was going into unmanned aviation in the fight against crime became public knowledge thanks to a Parliamentary question asked by Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader Pieter Groenewald.

He was told just over three months ago the SAPS “is in the process of purchasing drones” with 168 UAVs to be delivered in three tranches.

Equipment to be fitted to the remotely controlled aerial platforms is not given in the official answer but, judging from planned use, will include cameras of some sort. “The drones will be used as part of policing, including in rural areas, as per implementation of the rural safety strategy,” Groenewald was informed.

Drone deployment over the three delivery phases is set to be at 43 sites, including specialised units, provincial and district operational command centres (POCCs and DOCCs) as well as what is termed “safer city projects”. “Satellite drone units” will serve “various police stations”.

Rural safety committees at police station and district levels will be able to request drones as part of rural safety plans.