The thriving drone community of South Africa
A couple of years ago, while I was living in Cape Town, I met a group of people who were so into drones and aerial filming that they managed to initiate me into the world of UAVs. It turns out that South African soil is fertile ground for UAV enthusiasm and businesses. Therefore, I will dedicate this post to the thriving drone community of the Republic of South Africa.
Let’s start with the legislation: there is none. SACAA, the South African Civil Aviation Authority created confusion some two months ago, when it firstly declared a ban on the use of drones for aerial filming, and then issued this statement, which basically says that SACAA doesn’t ban something that is illegal already. The only problem is that it is not illegal, since there is no legislation covering the issue. Meanwhile, the Cape Town Film Commission has been in discussion with the SACAA, the Ministry of Transport, the Department of Trade and Industry as well as the Deputy Mayor of Cape Town, and has requested that the SACAA implement their model aircraft policy for use of the drones.
If approved, the policy will require adopting the below guidelines, which are similar to those used in Europe and Australia:
- Flying only under 120m
- No flying within 4.2 nautical miles of an airport
- Flying only in line of sight of the operator (500m)
- No auto pilot flying or night flying
- No flying over public property and roads without permission
Meanwhile, filmmakers are still flocking to Cape Town to take advantage of the breathtaking scenery and skilled local aerial filming production crews. One of them is Skylab Productions. Founded in 2012, this prolific company has produced aerial shots for National Geographic, and gave its contribution to Cape Town in this (in)famous Pharell Williams “Happy” video.
Where drones are being used for filming, there is no doubt someone catering to their needs and providing them with equipment. SteadiDrone is a proudly South African UAV manufacturer, founded in 2012 in the beautiful town of Knysna. Their flagship product is the QU4D, RTF quadcopter, which uses the APM 2.5 autopilot from 3D Robotics and is able to carry a GoPro camera on board.
There are others, however, that are manufacturing a UAV with significantly less creative purpose. The Skunk Riot Control Drone is made by Desert Wolf, a South African company, and it has already been sold to mining companies, notorious for their problematic treatment of mine workers and frequent riots.
Luckily, there are more jesting endeavors. SA Beer Lift challenge, although tiny compared to the one organized by HobbyKing, still managed to produce some respectable results and some funny fails. I couldn’t find any information about whether it will happen again this year, but it would be awesome if it did. Where else could you find such cool drone fail videos?
Despite South Africa’s challenges, the drone community there seems dynamic and healthy. Dronologista hopes that it will remain so in the future, and will be happy to bring the news to the world about individuals and companies that are using or producing proudly South African drones.