Exciting news, for those looking to drone technology as a solution

The potential uses for drone technology within the forestry sector are both plentiful and diverse, from monitoring and managing commercial species escapees to pre-planting compartment preparation, with a bit of imagination a drone can do just about anything. In many cases, so their proponents argue, more effectively and efficiently than current best practices.

So why aren’t commercial forests abuzz with drones?

Red tape! “Our [South Africa’s] sluggish response to global drone technology trends has put us on the backfoot and has exposed South Africa’s lost opportunities. South Africa was the first country in Africa to approve drone (RPAS) regulations, but subsequent international investment has gone elsewhere in Africa. South Africa is now playing catch-up. However, after 16 months of consultation, there is now industry-consensus that all stakeholders must be rallied under one national strategy”, states Irvin Phenyane, Chairperson of the Drone Council South Africa, in an article for Fire-Rescue International (FRI) media.

The Drone Council South Africa has been launched by the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT), Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams under the theme “Strategic partnerships to accelerate a national drone-industry growth strategy” during a webinar on 15 July 2020. The Council is a platform of affiliation by various established companies and new entrants into the drone industry. Its main objectives are to facilitate the growth of the South Africa drone economy through collaboration, business incubation, industrial sectoral optimisation and investment, drone pilot training and industry transformation, amongst others.

New drone technology skills for graduates, current aviators and unemployed youth are being considered. Many developing countries are now using drone technology in many industries like town planning, project monitoring, rail services, road maintenance, crop spraying, delivery of goods and the security industry. The accelerated growth of the drone industry is paramount to the economic growth of our country,” said Phenyane.

Participants in the webinar included California-based Zipline, which developed its capacity to deliver essential services before and during the COVID-19 era in rural Rwanda and Ghana, the South African Civil Aviation Authority, Swoop Aero from Australia, Wingcopter from Germany and Astral Aero from Kenya.

The Drone Council SA was initiated in 2019, with its launch planned for May 2020 but postponed due to the Corona Virus lockdown. It is a membership-based entity and will endeavour to empower its members. The Council’s main objective is to organise its members and other stakeholders to enhance the robust development of the drone economy in South Africa.

Board members of the council include Angelina Ntombikayise Maseko, chairperson of drone supplier Rugged Africa; Ken Venn, founder of drone firm UAV Industries; Shaun Ledlie, president of the Association of Aviation Training Organisations of South Africa; Kelebogile Molopyane, CEO for AB4IR and Jack Shilubana, MD of Ntiyiso Aviation Services.

UAV Industries has been approved by the SACAA to operate commercially within the boundaries of South Africa. They have outlined the requirements a company must comply with to become a commercial drone operating company:

  • Air Service Licence (ASL) issued by the Department of Transport (not for Corporate or Non-Profit)
  • Remote Operator Certificate (ROC) issued by the CAA (which is equal to that of an Aircraft
  • Operator Certificate (AOC) used by commercial airlines)
  • Registration with the SACAA
  • Valid Letter of Approval (RLA)
  • Third-party liability insurance
  • Valid ICASA certificate for airband radio in operation.

To be issued with the above licences, a company must demonstrate all aspects of the business to the SACAA and must have the following roles within their management structure:

  • Accountable Manager (CEO) – management experience required
  • Responsible Person Flight Operations – aviation experience required
  • Responsible Person Aircraft (Chief Pilot)
  • Safety Manager – aviation experience and qualifications required
  • Quality Manager – aviation experience and qualifications required
  • Security Manager – aviation experience required

UAV’s commercial licence and the launch of the South African Drone Council takes us one step closer to seeing drone technology zipping through our trees. The question is, are we ready for it?

/ Uncategorized, What's new