Pilots, drone operators urged to comply with COVID-19 regulations

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Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula urged aviators to comply with regulations and directions of the Disaster Management Act aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

In a statement, he appealed particularly to pilots and drone owners to comply with regulations in place as part of South Africa’s COVID-19 national lockdown.

The Minister’s plea follows reports of a surge in applications for permission to fly remotely-piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), commonly referred to as drones.

“The SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) received a handful of requests from small private aircraft owners, requesting permission to fly for various business-related activities, including farm owners wanting to fly to various provinces to check on operations,” said Mbalula.

The Minister stressed restrictions are in place to stop spread of the virus.

“While these applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, it is important to remember the country is under lockdown for a reason. Restrictions are there to stop the spread of COVID-19. It is a matter of life and death.

“We cannot put lives at risk to rescue unessential business operations. If it is not deemed urgent, it must wait. We cannot put a price tag on human lives,” he said.

Mbalula commended cargo operators, the national Department of Health’s Port Health Services, the Department of Transport’s aviation agencies, as well as other role players, for not only ensuring smooth operations but also for adherence to regulations and directions.

In addition, the Minister noted daily reports which indicate procedures, set by organisations including the World Health Organisation, on disinfection and other hygiene and COVID-19 combating measures, are being followed.