13 FAQs for drones answered

2014-06-13 12:31
A team led by Nebraska university scientists has won a federal grant to further develop aerial drones that could hover over and sample water from lakes, ponds and streams that people can't easily reach. (Nati Harnik, AP)

A team led by Nebraska university scientists has won a federal grant to further develop aerial drones that could hover over and sample water from lakes, ponds and streams that people can't easily reach. (Nati Harnik, AP)

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Cape Town - The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has attempted to address some of the key concerns caused by the current non-regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or drones through an FAQ document release on its website. 

In the Airworthiness document the SACAA makes it clear that regulation should not be expected before the end of the year and the authority remains nondescript when it comes to outlining what constitutes civil airspace for the commercial use of drones. 

What it does in fact confirm is that any drones operated within a closed environment are not subject to its rules or restrictions. 

But the authority remains unwavering when it comes to any exemption for the commercial use of drones, refusing to grant any special permission until the regulations have been approved - not even when it comes to the use of UAS for rhino conservation. 

The SACAA confirmed it was developing guidance material, for interim operations and subsequent integration of UAS into the national airspace, communicating this as and when it became available.  
All those affected are being advised to contact the CAA's UAS department directly: Tel.: 011 545 1125 or email Msithinia@caa.co.za or rpasInbox@caa.co.za
 


1. What are the regulations for civil operations of UAS in South Africa The current Civil Aviation

Regulations prescribe specific requirements for operating an aircraft in the South African civil airspace. To date, no UAS has been able to comply with these requirements. However, South Africa like the rest of the world has since embarked on the process to enable the aviation industry to operate UAS in the national airspace. South Africa as an International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) contracting state is actively involved in ICAO Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Group to develop guidance material and standards to guide contracting states in development of their national guidance material and regulations.

2. Since the process to develop Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS) may take ICAO several years to complete, does this mean the industry has to wait for several years before the SACAA issues legal operations of UAS in South Africa?

Firstly, it’s worth noting that ICAO has since embarked on ‘Aviation System Block Upgrades’ (ASBU) with four different target dates: December 2013 for ASBU ‘0’; 2018 for ASBU ‘1’, 2023 for ASBU ‘2’ and 2028 for ASBU ‘3’. This block upgrade, includes the development of SARP S related to UAS. Secondly, the SACAA has taken an active role to identify alternative solutions in order to support development of the local industry without compromising safety. We are currently working on an interim solution which will enable certain UAS operations of which the risk is quantifiable and acceptable to the SACAA. The SACAA is currently working towards issuing approvals for certain operations before the end of current financial year and to complete a comprehensive integration roadmap with indicative timelines.

3. Are the operations of UAS on private land or restricted airspace regulated by the SACAA?

The current Civil Aviation Regulations prescribe specific requirements for operating an aircraft in the South Africa and civil airspace. To date, no UAS has been able to comply with these requirements , empowered by the Civil Aviation Act, 2009 (Act No. 13, of 2009).

4. Are radio controlled aeroplanes or model aircraft classified as UAS as well?
The difference between a radio controlled/model aircraft (used as a ‘toy’) and UAS has not yet been defined by ICAO. If the aircraft is solely used for sport or recreational purposes, the Director of Civil Aviation (DCA) has designated an external organisation to oversee this acti vities. The designated organisation is the RECREATION AVIATION ADMINISTRATION SOUTH AFRICA (RAASA).

Table below may be used as an indication of whether the aircraft is a ‘toy’ or UAS. The convention hinges on the ‘ intended use’ of the equipment. If in doubt please contact UAS office for clarity. UAS (examples) TOY (examples) Receiving Remuneration Recreational Professional Work Sport Aerial Work Competition (not limited to above list) Any activity other than the three above is UAS operations . 



5. Can you direct me to the relevant regulations that relate to the operation of UAV’s in SA airspace?

The current Civil Aviation Regulations prescribe specific requirements for operating an aircraft in the South African airspace. To date, no UAS has been able to comply with these requirements. South Africa, as an ICAO contracting state, develops industry guidance material and regulations in accordance with ICAO SARPS (Standards and Recommended Practices). The development process of South African civil aviation regulations relating to UAS will follow a similar process. The ICAO will most probably embark on the process of SARP’s development later in 2014.

6. I am a UAS designer/manufacturer, should my design be in accordance with a certification standard?

A similar ideology as in the manned aviation applies to UAS, taking in consideration that ICAO has classified Unmanned Aircraft (UA) as an aircraft we know today. The Civil Aviation Regulations, 2011 makes provision for Type Certified Aircraft and Non - Type Certified Aircraft, the main difference being the limitations of one compared to the other. South Africa is participating with international organisations to collaborate in developing a design standard unique to UAS in order to accommodate its unique features, like the lack of pilot in the cockpit. Currently there is no published design standard for UAS; more information will be communicated with the industry as soon as the standard is available.

7. Are other non - aviation design standards acceptable to the SACAA, such as STANAG 4671?

No, only civil aviation approved standard by the competitive authority is acceptable to the SACAA.

8. I would like to find out what are the legal aspects on the remote controlled planes and drones flying over rural areas for both hobbyist and as well as commercial operations?

Is this perfectly legal and what are the restrictions? Please refer to question 4 above.  

9. I would like to enquire about what steps are to be followed when buying UAS from outside South Africa.

The importation of goods into the Republic falls under a different government entity, please contact the relevant responsible entity. Such as Department of Trade and Industry, South African Revenue of Services etc.

10. What are the requirements for pilots and supporting personnel?

South Africa as an ICAO contracting state is actively involved in ICAO Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Group to develop guidance material and standards to guide contracting states in development of their national guidance material and regulations. The SACAA will be guided by ICAO (Annexes) in determining qualification for the crew. At this stage, ICAO has not yet published Annexes covering crew requirements.

11. What are the guidelines for the use of tethered balloons at night/day for advertising?

Tethered balloons (captive balloons) are not classified as UAS, contact Air Navigation Services department for more information on tethered balloons.

12. What are the regulations for indoor operations for UAS?

The indoor operations of UAS are outside the mandate of SACAA since ‘indoors’ is not classified as airspace.

13. I am a wildlife photographer and an avid conservationist. I am currently looking forward to join a fund raising campaign to fly drones over the Kruger National Park to save the Rhinos and other rare species. What are the approval process and the regulations that are required to fly such kind of drones over the park?

Unfortunately the commercial operations of Unmanned Aircraft Systems have not yet been approved in South Africa by the Director of Civil Aviation Authority, nor has any exemption been issues for any UAS operations in South Africa.
 

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