Drone approvals for restricted areas or no-fly zones
To stay legal and get drone approvals for drone restricted areas or drone no-fly zones, the first step is that you need to be both compliant with regards to remote pilot license (RPL), and remote operating license (ROC) requirements. This can be done in one of a few ways. Be RPL licensed, and your business must have an ROC. Or, be RPL licensed and fly under an ROC licensed company. Or, get your business an ROC license, and hire an RPL licensed pilot. Or use the services of a company that has an ROC license and RPL licensed pilots. Or hire an RPL licensed pilot, as well as outsource to an ROC licensed company.
The second step is to apply with the relevant drone regulatory authorities to fly drones in places that are otherwise off-limits. These are authorities such as the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), the South African National Parks (SANParks), other environmental affairs authorities, roads authorities, traffic authorities etc. Seek companies that are already approved to fly drones in those areas, or pilots that are already approved to fly in the no-fly premises.
If you are looking to hire a licensed drone pilot who is also already approved to fly in restricted drone flying environments, there are plenty of remote pilot licensed RPL pilots in South Africa, who are allowed to safely fly unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) or remotely piloted aerial system (RPAS) in otherwise restricted environments. You just need to have your own ROC as a business to be able to legally operate the drones for commercial gain.
It is important to have both certifications / licenses in order to be allowed to pilot drones legally in South Africa, including increasing your chances to be approved for flying in drone prohibited properties. It becomes easier to get approval from SACAA to be allowed to fly over otherwise drone restricted locales like roads, close to persons, in national parks like SANParks designated bounds.
Such areas are termed no-fly areas or no fly zones, and flying over them or too close to them is prohibited and can get you a hefty fine from authorities. These areas include private property, public roads, animal and forest conservation areas in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Mpumalanga, and other areas of the country.
If you have both the ROC and RPL, then it is just a matter of applying with the authorities to be allowed to fly in otherwise drone prohibited land. If you have neither an ROC or RPL, it’s better to hire the services of a company that has their own ROC, as well as their own RPL licensed pilots. The rules allow you to source an RPL pilot and then hire an ROC licensed company also. If on the other hand you have your own RPL, then you require to fly under a company that possesses an ROC, in order to legally fly a drone commercially.
There are a sizeable number of companies in South Africa who are properly licensed in both the RPL and ROC, who are already flying for many companies such as film companies, where the act of filming using drones does require one to fly very close to persons, on roads, and in national parks etc.
The licensed drone companies are also in mining for surveys and stockpile management. They are also hired in agriculture for crop health surveys and management. They are also using drones in town planning by doing mapping and aerial photography. They inspect infrastructure for quality and preventative maintenance.
Attending drone lessons will enable you to learn more about the future of drones in business, as well as what is required to fly in off-limits environments, and stay legal.
More and more information is being disseminated which provides clarity around this, as well as whether kids are allowed to fly drones in South Africa.
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