Hennjean Smit of Drone Pilot is a licensed commercial drone operator in White River and his passion for his work is evident in the excitement he conveys when he talks about drones. Hennjean bought his first drone in 2013 to film enduro motorcycle racing which he was participating in at the time. He very quickly realised the potential of these flying robots and the advantages they could offer.
Today, off the shelf drones available to anyone can fly up to 500m high and +-7m away from take-off point. This poses a serious threat to both manned aircraft in the sky and humans on the ground if these drones are used irresponsibly.
On 1st July 2015 Part 101 of the Civil Aviation Act was introduced. This means that RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems) or drones are now regulated for commercial use.
Prowings was the first flight school approved to offer RPL (Remote Pilot License) training. Hennjean booked a seat in the second group of students and completed his RPL training in October 2015. The RPL is only one of many requirements needed for commercial drone operations. You also need ASL (air service license), RLA (letter of approval), C of R (certificate of registration) and a ROC (Remote operators certificate). The ROC is the final SACAA (South African Civil Aviation Authority) approval required for commercial drone operations. Only ROC holders qualify for Professional 3rd Party Liability cover.
As it is not possible for a private individual to obtain all the required Part 101 approvals. Hennjean partnered with Drone Media a division of DC Geomatics (ROC holder) operating out of KZN. Due to the high standards set by DC Geomatics their partners may operate in sensitive areas such as SANPARKS.
Drone technology is advancing at an unimagined pace. Not only are drones being used to capture photo and video but various sensors can now be fitted to drones to capture and record a variety of useful up to date information.
Drones are being tested for delivery of goods in urban areas, medicines and blood to remote rural areas, surveying of stockpiles and land, inspections of infrastructure, property and disaster zones, search and rescue missions, security surveillance, crop heath data capture, application of pesticides or fertilisers, counting and darting animals and planting up to 100 000 seed pods per day and this is only the beginning.
Authorities globally are working on a system to safely integrate drones with manned aircraft but whilst there are humans at the controls it is imperative to understand airspace and apply the rules, same as one needs to understand the rules of the road if wishing to drive a vehicle on the road.
What can Drone Pilot do for you?
- Aerial Photo & Video
- Public & Private Events
- Advertising & Promotions
- Construction & Commercial Inspections
- Inspections of inaccessible areas.
- Towers, Bridges, Rooftops etc…
- Progress photography of construction sites and building projects
- Real Estate
What you need to know if you want to legally fly your drone:
Commercial use of RPAS or Drones
The introduction of Part 101 of the Civil Aviation Act has meant that the use of RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems) informally known as Drones, are now regulated for commercial application. The RPAS operating Certificate (ROC) is the final approval and means that the Drone Operator is approved by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) for commercial operations. Only legal (ROC Holders) qualify for Professional and Third Party Liability Cover. When final approval is obtained, the operator is still subject to mandatory, bi-annual audits and other ongoing compliance requirements by the regulator, the SACAA.
SACAA issued ROC’s Drone operators are in possession of the following:
(The below mentioned documentation should be presented prior to each operation)
- Air Service License
- Radio Station License
- ROC (RPAS Operating Certificate)
- ROM (SACAA approved RPAS Operation Manual)
- (Drone) registration certificate (RPA/Drone specific)
- RLA (RPAS Letter of Approval per RPA/Drone)
- RPL (Remotely Pilot License per RPA/Drone Pilot)
SACAA Direct Compliance related – Fines up to R50 000 or 10 years imprisonment
Civil Law Suits – Liability suits are undefined and is dependent on the severity of the case
Criminal Charges – Serious especially where death, injury or severe damage occurred as result of infringement of the Civil Aviation Act
The company or person procuring the services of a Drone Operator will be the primary liable party and secondary, the drone operator itself.
Risk of using illegal RPAS (Drone) Operators
The general public of South Africa is far from being properly informed of the risk they face when associated with illegal Drone Operations.
All persons involved in illegal RPAS (Drone) Operations are all directly and jointly liable for any fines, imprisonment and liability lawsuits, where the instructing party will be deemed first respondent.
Security and Privacy:
Any RPAS (Drone) flight/operation must have the necessary approvals over and above the SACAA framework requirements and include permissions from:
1) Any person being flown over/near,
2) The landowner where the flight will take place
3) Neighbouring sites that may be affected.
Professional, Public Liability and Drone Insurance:
Only holders of a valid ROC’s can hold cover and are mandated to have sufficient third party and professional liability as well as aircraft insurance. No third party and professional liability insurance can be valid if the Drone Operator is not in possession of a valid ROC.
Collisions with Structures or People on the Ground:
Any damage will have devastating legal and liability implications for those involved especially if someone is injured.
Collisions with other aircraft:
RPAS (Drones) are defined as an Aircraft by the SACAA. During any Commercial RPAS (Drone) Flight Operations the RPAS Pilot must communicate with other Air Traffic in the area to ensure awareness of RPAS Operations and the RPAS Pilot to be aware of Air Traffic. This is a vital step ensuring separation of Air Traffic all be it other RPAS operations in the area. Collisions between Drones with other drones or Drones with Manned Aircraft are deemed a collision irrespective of the Aircraft being Manned or Unmanned. ** (Liability example: A Drone is ingested in a Commercial jet-liner engine, the aircraft lands and no-one is injured but the jet-liner engine is damaged beyond economical repair)
Peace of mind:
Licensed Commercial Operators and their equipment are subjected to vigorous training and testing while illegal operators have no external control being exercised to ensure safe operations. As a commercial operator, one knows that the occasional operation does not go according to plan, however, proper planning and emergency preparedness ensures that these flights rarely results in incidents or accidents.
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