The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has acknowledged issues with its unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) regulations, and pledged to work with industry to improve them.
Poppy Khoza, Director of Civil Aviation at the SACAA, said at the Commercial Aviation Association of South Africa’s (CAASA’s) Commercial Aviation Symposium at Lanseria on 22 May that since the Part 101 regulations concerning UAVs came into effect on 1 July 2015, there have been successes as well as lessons learnt.
Based on these lessons, the SACAA is undertaking a review of things like operator certification and aircraft registration, oversight and personnel licensing requirements. The industry has expressed concern at the onerous and cumbersome requirements for commercial operations (such as having a certificate to undertake flight operations, registration of aircraft and licensing of pilots similar to the manned commercial aviation industry) as well as the lengthy delays in receiving licenses from the SACAA.
Khoza said that when the regulations were introduced, the SACAA had no point of reference, and started from zero. “We were among the first countries to take proactive steps. We had to do something as a regulator. We declare no perfection in the regulations which is why they need to be reviewed to ensure there is safe integration into civil airspace.”
“This is a new technology in our airspace and having started at a zero base with no point of reference it would come with its own challenges. But we do want to try and perfect the system as we go along. But the commitment is indeed to make it better. We can’t do it alone as the Civil Aviation Authority, which is we always rely on partners such as CAASA,” Khoza said.
Last week Tuesday the SACAA met with the Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Association of South Africa (CUAASA) where the issues of UAV regulations and licensing were discussed. “We are studying the document that we received in terms of how best we can regulate remotely piloted aerial systems,” Khoza said.
She said a roadmap has been drawn up to address UAV challenges, and includes working with industry; review Part 101 regulations to facilitate easy but safe compliance and expedited approval processes; examining oversight; promoting safety and continuing to engage with stakeholders such as CAASA.
“This is a work in progress. I would say watch this space,” Khoza said. “There are a few things lined up in terms of oversight and delays. There are challenges with the air services licensing council. The plan is we all come together and make sure this integration [of UAVs into commercial airspace] is a success.
“There is a notion that the Civil Aviation Authority is introducing regulations that are geared to stifle the industry’s growth. The Civil Aviation Authority does not sit alone and decide on regulations. It’s a collaborative effort – we sit with industry, we debate, we agree, we disagree. I want to dispel the myth that the Civil Aviation Authority is introducing regulations that are stifling the industry. That is not the case. Anyone can propose regulation amendments. It will not be true that the Civil Aviation Authority sits somewhere and decides on legislative amendments in isolation. It is a collaborative effort between regulator and industry,” Khoza said.
“We will not always agree; we will not always reach consensus. But it’s important we have a dialogue to hear each other out,” she said. “We have taken steps in the right direction and we shall get there.”