Flying camera drones in South Africa banned with immediate effect

2014-05-30 12:50
Thinus Ferreira
Cape Town – The use of flying drones with mounted cameras has been banned with immediate effect in South Africa by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).

This makes it illegal for any TV news operation, productions doing film shoots, people shooting documentaries, TV series or film agencies to use drones.

SACAA issued an immediate prohibition on the use of flying camera drones in South Africa, with no further permits being issued.

SACAA says the ban of all so-called "unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's)" with cameras in South Africa is due to a lack of regulations guiding its use and that more time is necessary to understand its use, as well as to come up with an outline of how these camera drones could be incorporated into the civil aviation sector.

"There is ongoing global research in this area to overcome this deficiency," says Kabelo Ledwaba, SACAA communications manager.

"South Africa runs the risk of losing production activities to other areas who approve the use of camera drones," says Denis Lillie, the chief executive of the Cape Town Film Commission (CFC).

"The ban will not only affect feature films, but also tourism promotion agencies often looking for aerial shots."

In response to the ban, Screen Africa reported that the Cape Town Film Commission (CFC) 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.

In addition to this, the CFC requested that filmmakers support the initiative by sending letters which express the importance of UAV use in filmmaking and outline how the immediate ban will impact on employment and South Africa’s economy.

*This article relates to the use of drones in the TV/film/media industry (as described in paragraph 2) and not personal use.

- Channel24/Screen Africa


  • Sarah Montague - 2014-05-30 11:59

    Oh suspicious...

      Sarah Stanton - 2014-05-30 12:23

      Yup. No doubt put in place to stop us taking pics of Nkandla, or whatever the next money-thieving plan is that they have in place...

      Michael Ross - 2014-05-30 13:06

      Not only suspicious, but also rather non-descript; What defines "flying drones with mounted cameras"? Can I mount a digital camera (goPro™, handheld, digital camera, film camera with remote trigger switch) to a remote controlled fixed-wing airplane? Could I mount it to a single-rotor remote controlled helicopter (petrol or electrical)? This broad-scale ban on "flying camera drones" largely appears to infringe on certain rights to own and operate unmanned electrical / petrol flying mechanisms for recreational / entertainment / sporting / home security purposes. What is SACAA's official stance on "why" this ban was issued? Clarification and context would go a long way, and so would a clearer definition on what is specifically prohibited, and what is not considered illegal.

      Buzzbar - 2014-05-30 13:58

      Typical SA government. Spew out new laws at a whim with no possible way to enforce it....

      Blinde Sambok - 2014-05-30 14:41

      The more corrupt the state the more numerous the laws...(Tacitus - very long ago)

      Daniel Mpande - 2014-05-30 15:10

      More misguided laws about our air space. The only airspace I want to talk about is the airspace the Gupta's used to fly into our air force base. Let's focus on that please lawmakers.

      Adrian Bruwer - 2014-05-30 15:22

      Pathetic. Control freaks.

  • Andrew Nieuwmeyer - 2014-05-30 12:12

    So it's now illegal to use drones in anti - poaching operations. That's clever ....

      Robbie Crouch - 2014-05-30 13:59


      Doug Isherwood - 2014-05-30 14:41

      Anti Poaching activities are exempt from the ban. This ban is only for the TV/film/media industry. Personal use also falls outside the ban however the CAA will certainly have to get their ducks in a row pronto as I fail to how you can ban the TV/film/media industry and not private use for what can amount to much the same kind of activity.

      George Wood - 2014-05-30 14:47

      Well the ANC are very clever, oh.......DOH!! Facepalm!! FAIL!! As usual!!

      Andrew Nieuwmeyer - 2014-05-30 15:17

      You misunderstand. the SACAA has banned all drones used by all industries, companies and organizations. No exceptions. Anti poaching operations are definitely not exempt. Eskom using drone to inspect power lines is thus also prohibited. The film industry in the Cape is just the only industry protesting so far. Personal "drones" which can be considered to be radio controlled recreational aircraft are OK.

      Andrew Nieuwmeyer - 2014-05-30 15:27

      Google: FAQ for UAS SACAA

  • Julian Booyens - 2014-05-30 12:18

    but it was ok for the Gupta's could land a jet on a national key point. I think permits should be issued for the use of drones as per the model aircraft policy

  • Gerhard De Jager - 2014-05-30 12:20

    Dumbest decision ever by SACAA, just shows how anti-progress this government department is, they would rather jobs leave the country than embrace technology and the future. Not a surprise at all though.

  • Malcolm MacLeod - 2014-05-30 12:21

    What a load of horse manure.

  • Annie Saunders Grobbelaar - 2014-05-30 12:27

    This is the only way the 73 ministers of the ANC will get extra money. The toll gate on the N17 went up overnight by 50 cents, no warning, no notification. Thousands of vehicles use the N17, new ministers need our money.

  • Khumo William Monosi - 2014-05-30 12:27

    Ds is a victory 4 de country. We hv ppl with sinister motives wu will try to breach de security of ds country using drones. Ds drones cn also used in suicide missions. We cnt trust de usage of drones

      Stuart Steedman - 2014-05-30 12:32

      The only sinister thing here is your spelling and grammar. A fine product of our schooling system.

      Gary Bloom - 2014-05-30 12:41

      lol..............suicide missions with an UNMANNED drone?...............riiiiight

      Compos Mentis - 2014-05-30 12:45

      Laughs.... Until we have a better relationship between private performance and the public truth, as was demonstrated with Watergate, we as the public are absolutely right to remain suspicious, contemptuous even, of the secrecy and the misinformation which is the digest of our news. John le Carre

      mark.k.davidson - 2014-05-30 13:02

      This guy is very funny. Made my day.

      Mike Olwagen - 2014-05-30 13:04

      @Gary Bloom - one I heard in a long time. A classic I tell you!

      Thomas Egbert Deacon - 2014-05-30 13:36

      Maybe "u nd to gt a copy of de" Oxford Dictionary delivered to you by means of a drone. Sinister motives...? -That could compromise the security of "ds country"? -Like what? Give us an example? (Not people's privacy, that's not "de security of ds country".)

      Michael Curtis Lee - 2014-05-30 13:45


      Buzzbar - 2014-05-30 14:01

      Does it hurt being this stupid? I'm surprised you have made it to adulthood without a Darwinian incident....

      Mark Maree - 2014-05-30 14:43

      may the drones hunt u down

      tim.wilford.520 - 2014-05-30 15:33

      This moron with "de victory" clearly doesn't know the difference between a remote control toy from a hobby shop and a military UAV drone.... Firstly and this is from first hand experience it won't fly for more than 10 can't carry anything bigger than a camera cause it won't take if he plans to attack people with fire crackers and lastly if you can't see it chances are you've crashed it there range is very limited

  • Richard Zanner - 2014-05-30 12:34

    And yet it is still legal for me to fly my remote controlled planes and helicopters.

  • Justin Schoeman - 2014-05-30 12:51

    This article is not particularly accurate. 1) CAA did not ban the use of drones. They simply published a notice to warn people that commercial drone operations are illegal. It has been illegal since the new Civil Aviation Regulations came into effect in 2009. 2) The 'ban' does not apply to personal use of drones.

      Justin Schoeman - 2014-05-30 13:13

      EDIT: Looks like this was introduced into the regulations in 1997 already...

      Herman Eloff - 2014-05-30 13:28

      Nowhere in the article does it say that the personal use of drones were banned. "This makes it illegal for any TV news operation, productions doing film shoots, people shooting documentaries, TV series or film agencies to use drones."

      Justin Schoeman - 2014-05-30 13:36

      It is implied in the first paragraph of the article: "The use of flying drones with mounted cameras has been banned with immediate effect in South Africa by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA)." This fails to mention that personal (recreation, sport and competition) use is allowed. And you can see from the other comments that a number of people assume it applies to personal use too.

      Louis van Niekerk - 2014-05-30 14:00

      What would you then describe as “personal use” ? I also use my copter for FPV and filming, we are in the middle of a project to check raptor nest. Where does this leave me ??

      Doug Isherwood - 2014-05-30 14:47

      Louis, personal use is described as a use for reasons other than commercial use. This ban should not effect you filming a raptor nest or such like, unless you were filming it as a registered company operating for profit with the intent of making a documentary about what you are filming

      Justin Schoeman - 2014-05-30 15:00

      Unfortunately, the law allows only the following uses of model aircraft: recreation, sport and competition. Everything else is classified as UAV operations. Specific examples given in the CARs of UAV operations include 'scientific' and 'research'. So I am afraid you are on the wrong side of this one.

      Andrew Hirst - 2014-05-30 15:32

      I must say this aspect (inaccurate reporting) strikes me as typical of almost each and every story in the press of which I have any personal knowledge. Usually its just laziness and carelessness (ages wrong, names spelt wrong etc etc), or sometimes its just simple ignorance or standard prejudices trotted out (boys playing with their toys etc) but just as often its obviously to give an "interesting" angle or just simple sensationalism. Very frustrating when, as in this case, there is important information either distorted or omitted.

  • Mpho Mosanka Mashegoane - 2014-05-30 13:08

    You saw them in movies like Colosium....

  • Johan Jonker - 2014-05-30 13:24

    Stupid! They should first come and talk to the people in the hobby. Just banning stuff isn't going to stop it.

  • Chas Everitt Plettenberg Bay - 2014-05-30 13:36

    My real estate business uses a small camera fitted drone for taking photos of properties for sale. The manufacturer is DJI in China and we recently downloaded a firmware update that prevents the drone from flying near any air corridors and airports. In addition, we do not fly more than approx 50 to 60 metres high which is more than sufficient for an oblique angle image. Our drone is never in the air for more than 10 minutes at any one time. The authorities should recognise that there are manufacturers and operators who are responsible and that technolgy can apply the necessary restrictions to ensure saftey compliance.

      Buzzbar - 2014-05-30 14:03

      Admit it, you just enjoy playing with the drone. The fact that it has a business benefit is just a further motivating factor to use it during working hours!!!

      Doug Isherwood - 2014-05-30 14:59

      Chase Everitt - It would be interesting to know if the CAA would consider your use as Commercial. Why don't you call them and find out. The inspectors are generally quite helpful.

  • Zenith Lilje - 2014-05-30 13:39

    Our legislation CAR 94.06 specifically allows the use of drones/UAVs/RC craft provided they stay under 150 feet and stay away from roads.

  • Sam Bowker - 2014-05-30 13:40

    The guidelines sound fair though if they are approved although they should never have banned without having the guidelines approved in advance to avoid any downtime and loss of business. Whoever is responsible for that should be held accountable and I'm sure will be.

  • Jessleena Suri - 2014-05-30 13:50

    What a pity! My department at UCT was just starting to explore using them for research purposes :(

  • mmmmTim - 2014-05-30 13:55

    Why not come out with the policy first, it is not a priority after all and there have been no problems up until now.

  • Keith Pickersgill - 2014-05-30 13:55

    SA CAA does not have the authority to ground UAV's or drones ir quad-copter or whatever you wish to call them. Unregulated does not equate to illegal. Until they have regulations that specifically cover this, they have no authority over it. Where do you draw the line at what the CAA has authority over? The flying of paper-jets, golf-balls, kite-surfers, meteorites, birds and insects are all unregulated. None of them are illegal. CAA needs to consult with the UAV pilots and groups such as FPV-SA with regards to creating regulations and guidelines. The guidelines mentioned in the article are seriously short-sighted. We the pilots already have safety guidelines in place that the CAA have not even considered. Modern technology is developing at a rapid pace. The regulations need to keep up with such evolving technology.

      Doug Isherwood - 2014-05-30 15:05

      Keith, You are wrong, the CAA has the authority to ground anything that flies or to prevent any flying activity that could cause a safety problem to aircraft or people on the ground, and they don't need to have it covered in the CAR's first.

  • Robbie Crouch - 2014-05-30 13:57

    Mind-numbingly stupid decision!

  • Quentin Huggett - 2014-05-30 13:58

    So now you want da money from da drones too. Lol so now the parrot drone is illegal hahaha

  • Melissa Posthumus - 2014-05-30 14:01

    Sooo stupid!!

  • Justin Brooks - 2014-05-30 14:12

    Great. We are competing with other countries to bring in films , tv series and commercials and now we cannot offer the director an aerial shot with a cheaper drone option. So we have to quote for a helicopter which will blow budgets and lose SA work. Nice one.

  • Jimmy James - 2014-05-30 14:26

    By the way would it be legal to check out Nkandla during daylight and at night?

  • Cafe-Ambivalence - 2014-05-30 14:50

    Just keep flying. F$%^ the ban.

  • Andre Cloete - 2014-05-30 14:53

    The ban is against drones with cameras. Besides the camera how is this different from any other drone? To ban it surely you have to ban all drones including the ones without cameras. So in actual fact the ban is not against drones, but against drones with cameras. So its fine to fly a drone with any other equipment on board. Well that means the aviation authority now makes rulings about filming. That really sounds not only out of their field of authority, but un constitutional. See you in court.

  • Warrick Kernes - 2014-05-30 14:56

    We're about to get a lot of upset customers who've all been buying these from us at Action Gear for commercial use! But if the drone police storm in it'll be hard for them to prove that you're NOT using it for personal use! I don't see anything changing after this dubious decision.

  • Xolisa Shaun-Xavier Nqodi - 2014-05-30 15:28

    The SACAA can suck a nut actually! This is a huge f-up for us in the TV/Film Industry. I could understand the ban at night but to completely ban drones is totally absurd.

  • Steven Swart - 2014-05-30 15:28

    The right government officials have to be bribed first.

  • Raymond Van Den Brink - 2014-05-30 15:37

    Stop bringing in all these stupid laws if you do not have the means to police them

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