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South Africa’s first drone pilot licence awarded

Drone v cow

There’s been a lot of talk, a lot of confusion and a lot of misinformation about who can and who can’t fly drones in South Africa over the last couple of years. But now that the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has a set of legal regulations for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) in place, there’s happier news to report on the issue today.

According to a release from the Department of Transport, the first RPAS pilots licence was awarded last week to 23-year-old Nicole Swart, who is a testing standards officer at SACAA.

From the release:

Swart was handed the licence by the director of Civil Aviation, Poppy Khoza, two weeks after remotely piloted aircraft systems were integrated into the South African civil aviation airspace, following the introduction of relevant regulations on 1 July 2015.

According to Khoza, the issuing of the RPAS pilot’s licence to Swart augurs well in getting the youth to join the aviation industry, as well as transforming the industry.

“It is also critical that women and historically disadvantaged individuals consider careers in aviation as the current statistics relating to previously disadvantaged persons are still at miniscule levels with pilots, in particular, constituting 8% of total licensed personnel.”

Khoza said that the SACAA is also looking forward to issuing the first RPAS operating licence for commercial activities, adding that the number of applications received for commercial operations was far less than anticipated.

What’s interesting from that is that it suggests Swart’s licence isn’t for commercial operations – we’ll be checking with the SACAA tomorrow for clarity.

In the meantime, here’s a map of all the places you’re allowed to fly drones in SA.

[Image – CC Mauricio Lima]

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