Operational drone training schools illegal

Operational drone training schools illegal

Be careful out there guys. There are no certified drone training schools yet

The South African Civil Aviation Authority says it has not approved any training schools, organisations or operators for drone operations, and the regulations for these bodies will only come into effect on July 1.

This means that “drone” schools that have been operating within the legislative vacuum are illegal.

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The announcement this week of the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) regulations for drones has generated some confusion about the legality of “drone schools” that have been operating until now.

Sam Twala, certification engineer of unmanned aircraft systems for the SACAA, was quite firm that regulations for remotely piloted aircraft systems would only come into effect on July 1.

“In short, CAA has not issued any approval to any training school/organisation/operator for RPAS operations.”

This was backed up by Hennie Kieser, of the Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Association of South Africa (CUAASA), who said its members were busy being trained to get drone schools off the ground.

He said companies claiming to be drone schools were “opportunistic”.

In her announcement, Poppy Koza, director of the Civil Aviation Authority, noted that the growing popularity of remotely piloted aircraft systems, or drones, had caught regulators worldwide by surprise. The regulations, referred to as Part 101, were drafted after extensive consultation with the industry, drone operators, manufacturers, state entities and other airspace users.

They state that no remotely piloted aircraft shall be operated unless it has been issued with a letter of approval and the pilot is the holder of a valid remote pilot licence in the relevant category.

Shortly after the announcement on Sunday, Ian Melamed released a statement as the chief executive of South Africa’s “first-ever” drone school which opened its doors in Benoni last month. He said the school was the first to offer manned and unmanned flight training.

“The whole idea of the flight school is to have a professional environment that we can enhance now that the regulations have been signed for remote piloting,” he said in his statement.

John Gore, who was part of the training group at the SACAA involved in the drafting of the drone regulations, said: “There are currently no certified training schools for remote piloted aircraft systems in South Africa yet.”

Melamed, however, rejected the assertions that his drone school may be ahead of its time, as the regulations had not yet come into effect. “Just over a month ago we established a dedicated training facility for drones within our SACAA accredited Aircraft Training Organisation.”

He said the school had four simulators for drone training, and that it was awaiting SACAA approval for its remote pilot licence syllabus. “To our knowledge, there is no other Aircraft Training Organisation in SA that is this far advanced.”

Credit : Cape Argus – Anel Lewis

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