South African Drone Laws | Where Am I Allowed To Fly My Drone?
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE FLYING YOUR DRONE IN SOUTH AFRICA (PRIVATE USE):
So you have bought your new drone, but when it comes to flying you may be unsure where you may and may not fly, and what you may and may not do. This short article will help you stay within the South African drone laws.
This can be confusing, as many of the mobile applications available to us are not always up to date and accurate.
Here follows two comprehensive maps outlining all the no fly zones within South Africa that should be used in conjunction with each other, so you can be more sure of yourself next time you fly:
For a map legend, the single blue circles indicate a 10km radius around an airport, the shaded blue areas are airport airspace, the orange areas are restricted areas such as national key points or military installations, and shaded red areas are restricted airspace (FAD, FAR, FAP) for all aircraft. If there is an area on the map that is not covered by any colour, you are pretty much good to fly there – as long as you stay at least 50m away from a building and roads.
Always keep in mind that according to the SACAA, the following areas are all considered “No-fly zones” for hobbyist drone pilots:
Do not fly your drone:
- Near manned aircraft
- 10 km or closer to an aerodrome (airport, helipad or airfield) (indicated in map above)
- In controlled, restricted or prohibited airspace, which includes:
- Close to crime scenes, courts of law or prisons
- Close to Power Stations (indicated on map above)
- Close to National Key Points (indicated on map above)
- Other prohibited air spaces include restricted (FAR), danger (FAD) and environmental (FAP) areas such as SAN Parks which, in terms of the NEMA Protected Areas Act, state that “it is illegal to fly below 2500 ft above the highest point of any national park, with any aircraft/drone without the express permission of the Management Authority of the particular National Park”. The reason for this is that some sightseers use their drones to disturb or chase wild animals. Only drones used for wildlife conservation and research purposes are allowed, subject to special permission.
- At a altitude of more than 47 meters.
At all times, keep your drone at least 50m away from:
- Any person or group of persons (like sport fields, road races, stadiums, schools, social events, etc.)
- All public roads
- Any property without permission from property owner
- Only fly your drone in daylight and clear weather conditions
- Always maintain a visual line of sight
And no matter how cool it looks, please do not fly your drone in a swarm like Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl drone show. Any hobby drone pilot who fails to adhere to these regulations may receive a 10-year prison sentence, a fine of up to R50 000 or both.
Here are a few apps that may help you:
1. UAV Forecast
If you are looking for a free app that allows you to check for no-fly zones, then UAV forecast is a rather reliable app. It details restricted areas and also helps you with the weather forecast to ensure that you will be able to fly smoothly. With global coverage and real time information on flight restrictions, UAV forecast makes it easier to fly drones and be compliant with local regulations.
2. Hover – Drone and UAV pilot App
Hover is another app that supports global drone users. You can identify No-fly zones and check additional info like weather data, flight readiness indicator, flight logs and news feed related to UAVs.
This is one of the most comprehensive and accurate source for drone laws, regulations, and details about which areas in a country you can fly drones. The app gathers information from official sources all over the world and compiles it for drone users to find out about no-fly zones and other drone regulations.
Those who travel frequently with drones will find this helpful. It is intended for those who use drones for recreational purposes. Professionals can get handy info but they may have to do further research of their own about professionally using a drone in a particular region.
4. DJI’s Built-in Fly Safe Geo Zone Map
DJI has a very robust system that is built into the drone’s app where you will be able to find out areas where it is safe to fly and areas where flying can be restricted or where it can raise concerns.
It automatically limits your drone from flying into any area that is restricted or it gives you a warning in less restricted airspace. While some users may have the ability to override this function, unlocking it will not work in areas of high security. It always a good idea to have another app to check for flight restrictions in case DJI is not up-to-date.
Tips Before Flying
You can often fly closer to an airport if you get special permission from the air traffic control. Simply call them up and ask to see if you fly in their no-fly zone. They will usually allow you to if your request is reasonable.
Fines can be hefty if you violate drone safety laws. Make sure you read up on local laws too before flying. Always use common sense and you will avoid the majority of problems. Stay under 47 meters and maintain visual sight of your drone at all times.
Disclaimer: The above exists as a guide only, and must not be seen as conclusive. It remains the responsibility of the pilot to ensure that their flights are legal and safe. For more information, please visit the SACAA’s website, or contact them directly for the South African drone laws.