SANParks on the hunt for illegal drone users in Kruger

Cape Town - The technological advancement of the trophy holiday video has brought with it a few regulatory headaches. SANParks says visitors are taking liberties by flying drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) illegally in its parks and disturbing the well-being of the wildlife.

Current civil aviation legislation does not provide for certification, registration and/or operation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in the South African civil aviation airspace - with offenders facing a R50k fine and/or 10 years in jail. The SACAA is expected to complete its UAV draft regulation in early 2015.

South African National Parks (SANParks) has issued a statement warning individuals against flying unmanned aerial vehicles (such as drones) either for game viewing, filming, photography or any other purposes during their visit/stay in any of the National Parks, particularly the Kruger National Park (KNP).

SANParks reiterated that the practice is illegal as National Parks are legislated protected areas with restricted airspace, therefore a no-fly zone for all unauthorized aircraft systems.

“We have had two incidents reported by tourists in the KNP recently of people flying such aircraft illegally, getting out of vehicles on undesignated areas, interfering in sightings; disturbing and stalking animals; only to feign innocence upon questioning,", said KNP’s General Manager, Communications & Marketing, William Mabasa.

"We would like to inform such people and other drone users that, should they be found flying them in the Park at any time, they will be arrested on the spot and their equipment will be seized.”

The behaviour of these tourists is in contravention of the NEMA Protected Areas Act, but there are also restrictions in terms of the aerial filming rights and therefore an infringement of SANParks’ filming/photography policy said Mabasa.

The NEMA Protected Areas Act states that “it is illegal to fly below 2 500 feet above the highest point of any national park, including the KNP, with any aircraft/drone without the express permission of the Management Authority of the particular National Park i.e. SANParks.
 

“These kinds of incidents can negatively impact on the well-being of animals as well as the experience of other visitors. We would like to specifically thank the guests, who reported one of the incidents to the nearest camp." 

SANParks said it would like to catch these law-breakers in the act and further incidents could be reported to the Emergency Call Centre numbers 013 735 5516/076 801 9679. 

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