There’s a lot of people asking us; “What are the drone laws in South Africa?”. There is a lot of misunderstanding between what it means to fly as a hobbyist pilot and what it truly takes to fly your drone as a business service. In either case you need to abide by a particular set of rules which have been put in place to ensure safe flying regardless of whether you want to take a photo of the sunset over the Drakensberg or if you want to be flying your drone for commercial use and as a business income.
If you’re reading this site you’re most likely more interested in what it takes to be a fully certified and licensed drone company. Perhaps you want to hire a drone pilot and you want to understand who is a licensed drone operator and who is not or you could be a drone pilot looking to legitimize your business with the right certifications in order to offer your services for a fee.
A simplified explanation is that you’ll need two licenses; the first is a personal Remote Pilots License (RPL) and the second is the RPAS Operating Certificate (ROC). A lot of confusion comes about when individuals go through the process of attaining their RPL but aren’t fully informed that they will still need an ROC before they can legally offer their services as a drone pilot. Attaining an RPL can be done through a 7 day course at a cost of R15 – R25,000 and there have been many new drone pilots coming into the market with this qualification in hand however they are left grounded when they discover that while they are now personally licensed to fly a drone commercially they can only legally offer their services while flying under the ROC of an ROC licensed company. The obvious next step is for them to look at attaining their ROC but the application process is currently taking about 12 – 15 months and the costs quickly sore over R100k. The high cost and slow turn around time has unfortunately deterred a lot of RPL pilots from taking the next step.
There is a small chance that the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) may follow the changes made by the USA and Australian CAA’s which resulted in RPL pilots being able to operate commercially without needing to get the ROC. There is currently no change like this in sight but if it were to come about then South Africa might have similar changes in the next two to three years. Until that point however the only companies allowed to operate their drones legally in South Africa are the companies listed on this site as Approved Drone Pilots of South Africa.
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