No ban on drones issued: Sacaa

Pretoria - No specific notice or regulation to ban unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), also popularly known as drones, has been issued by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (Sacaa).

In a statement on Tuesday, Sacaa said reports that suggest that Sacaa has recently issued a notice banning UAS systems, specifically in the film industry, were inaccurate.

However, Sacaa is working on the integration of drones into the South African airspace.

“Sacaa has never issued any specific notice or regulation banning the use of unmanned aircraft systems. 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,” said Sacaa spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba.

Media reports last week claimed that the use of flying drones with mounted cameras has been banned with immediate effect by Sacaa.

Sacaa is cognisant of the urgent need and demand for UAS implementation.

“It is for this reason that Sacaa has allocated the necessary resources to the UAS programme to ensure a speedy integration of this type of aircraft into the South African airspace. In addition, Sacaa is currently compiling an interim guidance document as a provisional solution to enable restricted operational approval on a case-by-case basis, until maturity is attained by both the industry and Sacaa,” said Ledwaba.

Progress on this front has been made, with the document expected to be ready before the end of the current financial year (i.e. 31 March 2015).

“Engagement with industry representatives will continue and Sacaa remains receptive to any input from role players,” Ledwaba said.

Sacaa additionally has given no authority to any organisation or government entity to operate drones.

“Those that are flying any type of unmanned aircraft are doing so illegally. The current civil aviation regulations mandate the SACAA to ensure safety and security in relation to any flying activities in the Republic,” said Ledwaba.

Last month, the authority had issued a statement about the illegality of flying drones.

Sacaa also noted that the statement also attracted a negative response, as security concerns were reduced to a debate on drones and toys that generally do not require any operating permission.

Sacaa has the mandate to ensure aviation safety and security for all South Africans.

Ledwaba said that Sacaa is committed to the development of the country’s aviation sector, especially the UAS sector, which is a relatively new component of the civil aviation framework.

“This constitutes a relatively new component of the civil aviation framework, one which the Sacaa - together with civil aviation authorities worldwide and under the guidance of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) - is working to understand, define and ultimately integrate into the civil aviation sector.”

South Africa is a signatory state of ICAO, a United Nations body, and has invested heavily - through active involvement in the ICAO Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Group - to develop guidance material and standards to guide contracting states in the development of their national guidance material and regulations.

ICAO is working towards providing a regulatory framework through Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), with supporting Procedures for Air Navigation Services (PANS) and guidance material, to underpin the routine operation of UAS in a safe, harmonised and seamless manner comparable to that of manned operations.

Sacaa is an agency of the Department of Transport. -