The Ultimate Heliport in the Waterfall precinct in Midrand was shut down for an hour on Monday after drones were observed flying in the helicopter flight path.
On 3 May shortly after 08:00, an Ultimate Heliport employee reported seeing two drones operating directly in the helicopter flight path of Ultimate Heliport while driving in to work, Ultimate Heli said. Due to the risk of collision with helicopters and a possible fatal collision between a helicopter and one of the drones, Ultimate Heliport immediately suspended all flights until such time that security officers were able to investigate and the airspace was clear of drone activity.
The heliport was closed for an hour and caused disruptions to Gauteng emergency helicopter services that operate from Ultimate Heliport.
Air Ambulance operators Netcare 911 and HALO Aviation, who provide critical support to the community for fatal car accidents, hospital transfers and emergency medical care as well as surveillance operators such as Bidvest Protea Coin, Netstar and SBV, were all forced to ground their flights, according to Ultimate Heli.
Upon further investigation it was established that Hilti South Africa were operating these two drones over their offices 550 meters away from the heliport. The incident has been reported to the South African Civil Aviation Authority for further investigation.
This is not the first time drones have caused issues in South African airspace – they have disrupted air traffic on a number of occasions and in October 2020, a suspected drone may have been involved in a collision with a light aircraft at Rand Airport.
“It needs to be highlighted however, that airborne drones do pose a substantial risk to manned aircraft,” the Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Association of Southern Africa (CUAASA) said at the time. “A drone ingested into an engine could cause a catastrophic accident. It is therefore important to remind drone owners to follow the regulations and specifically not to fly their drone near aerodromes.”