First Cape drone pilots graduate

Drones fly at the Autel booth during the International CES in Las Vegas. (John Locher, AP, file)
Drones fly at the Autel booth during the International CES in Las Vegas. (John Locher, AP, file)

Cape Town – The first set of drone pilots in the Western Cape have graduated after nearly a month of training.

UAV Industries graduated its first batch of 14 pilots following regulations by the Civil Aviation Authority that mandate training for drone pilots.

“Anything that manned aviation does today that doesn’t involve the transportation of passengers will be taken over by drones over the next five to 10 years so there’re huge opportunities for the industry. Things are moving incredibly quickly,” said UAV chief instructor Greg Donaldson in a statement.

UAV won its training licence in December 2015 and said that there was a rush in applications.

“Within the first week of January we had a lot of interest from potential drone pilots and we’ve been working with mainly experienced model aeroplane flyers that which to convert into legal drone pilots. In the first eight weeks we’ve had over 50 people book through our courses and our first ‘recruits’ already certified and ready to earn,” said Donaldson.

Drone sales

Internationally, drone technology has faced hurdles to adoption with a restrictive legislative environments.

“We must allow our innovators to fully realise drones’ potential as a truly life-changing technology. With more than 3 400 exemption applications awaiting review by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), we will continue to work with members of Congress to ensure that the FAA adopts rules that allow small businesses to get the maximum benefits from drone technology,” said Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Technology Association.

The association calculated that drones sales in the US will hit 2.8 million units in 2016, increasing 149% from the 2015 total.

Drone technology is useful in combating of poachers, aerial support for sea rescues or the mapping and tracking of disaster zones.

In SA, drone rules include restrictions on where drones may be operated, 12 month licence renewals, and registration of the vehicle.

Donaldson said that flying a drone was more than just being able to pilot the vehicle.

“You can be the best radio control aircraft flyer, but you’ll fail our course if you don’t have situational awareness of, not just the drone, but the other users of the airspace around you - people on the ground, buildings, and property.”

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