Drone Laws in South Africa

Agencies Responsible for regulating drones in the Republic of South Africa

Drone Regulator in South Africa: South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA)

UAS Laws – General rules for flying drones in South Africa

The South African agency responsible for drone safety, SACAA, has provided several internet-accessible details on flying for fun or work. The highlights are enumerated below. For more details, go to the link above.

Are drones allowed in South Africa?

According to the SACAA, flying drones is legal in South Africa, but certain regulations must be strictly followed. Read on for more details.

Here are the most important rules to know for flying a drone in South Africa:

For private use – 

(a)   The RPAS may only be used for an individual’s personal and private purposes where there is no commercial outcome, interest, or gain;

(b)   The pilot must observe all statutory requirements relating to liability, privacy, and any other laws enforceable by any other authorities.

For all other use –

(a) an RPA must be registered and may only be operated in terms of Part 101 of the South African Civil Aviation Regulations.


  • Fly/operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft or toy aircraft safely at all times.
  • Remotely Piloted Aircraft or toy aircraft should always remain within the visual line of sight.
  • Fly/operate RPA in daylight and clear weather conditions.
  • Inspect your aircraft before each flight.

The Don’ts 

DO NOT, through act or omission, endanger the safety of another aircraft or person therein or any person or property through negligent flying/operation of Remotely Piloted Aircraft or toy aircraft. 

Do not fly/operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft or toy aircraft 50 m or closer from:

  1. Any person or group of persons (like sports fields, road races, schools, social events, etc.)
  2. Any property without permission from the property owner. 

Unless approved by the SACAA, DO NOT fly/operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft or toy aircraft:

  1. Near manned aircraft
  2. 10 km or closer to an aerodrome (airport, helipad, airfield)
  3.  Weighing more than 7 kg  
  4. In controlled airspace
  5. In restricted airspace
  6. In prohibited airspace.

Do not fly/operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft, or toy aircraft higher than 150 ft from the ground, unless approved by the Director of Civil Aviation of the SACAA.

Registration Requirements for Drone Flying in South Africa?

Per Part 101.02.4(1) of the Civil Aviation Regulations, 2011, No remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) shall be operated within the Republic of South Africa unless such RPA has been issued with a certificate of registration by the Director. 

How to register RPA 

Applicant should fill the following form, depending on the intent:  

  • Form CA-47R1 – application for new registration of the RPA. 
  • Form CA-47R2 – for change of ownership. 
  • Form CA-47R3 – for deletion due to accident or export. 
  •  Form CA-47R4 – amendment of C of R due to change of company name, change of address, or change of manufacturer’s name. 
  • Form CA-47R5 – for duplicate C of R as a result of being lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed. 

These forms may be obtained from the SACAA Airworthiness Forms page of the website (not always accessible).

Pilot Licensing Requirements for flying a drone in South Africa

Before making any application with SACAA, you will be required to obtain aviation training at an approved training organization (ATO).   

Prior Requirements

Pilot Licences

The following requirements are compulsory. 

  1. An applicant should not be less than 18 years of age
  2. Applicants must hold  current medical assessments
  3. An ATO for training must be identified
  4. Foreign theoretical training will be approved and validated (ASK)
  5. Only successful completion will be accepted
  6. Applicants must pass the RPL practical assessment
  7. Applicants must also pass Radiotelephony Examination
  8. Achieved English Language Proficiency (ELP) level 4 or higher.
  9. All applications must be submitted to the SACAA.

See Part 101 Civil Aviation Regulations (CARs) and Civil Aviation Technical Standards (CATS) for a complete list of requirements 

Instructor Ratings

  1. Remote Pilots will apply to the SACAA for Instructor Ratings.  
  2. Remote Pilot Instructors will apply to the SACAA for Designation as Remote Pilot Examiners.


Prior learning will be recognized and applies to and including the following:

A person who holds or has held: 

  1. A Pilot Licence. 
  2. A military qualification equivalent to a license and rating; or 
  3. An air traffic control license or a military qualification equivalent to an air traffic control license.
  4. Commercial air unmanned aircraft operations experience 

Before making any application with SACAA, you will be required to obtain aviation training at an approved training organization (ATO).  

The RPAS training course is provided by SACAA approved training organizations that have basic RPAS Training on their Operators Certificate. 

People with no aviation experience through to experienced aviators have the option of gaining a Remote Pilot Licence (RPL) that is focused entirely on the operation of a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS).

RPAS training in South Africa is still in its infancy, as it is globally. The South African Civil Aviation Authority is working closely with the industry to develop the training standards, syllabus, and resources necessary for the industry to expand and grow professionally. 

Upon completion

The course is competency-based and comprises a combination of theory and practical training. Upon successful completion of the course, the provider will apply to SACAA for a Remote Pilot Licence (RPL). 

Technical Guidance Material

View the TGM for Personnel Licensing by checking on the CAA website RPAS page (some documents are not always accessible)

Notes for recreational drone pilots flying for fun in South Africa

Private operation – means the use of an RPA for an individual’s personal and private purposes where there is no commercial outcome, interest, or gain; 

101.01.2 (1) Subject to sub-regulation (2), the provisions of Subparts 2, 3, 4, and 6 of this Part do not apply to the private operation of RPAS. We interpret this to mean that registration, licensing, and maintenance requirements (for commercial operators) do not apply to private operations within the scope allowed.

(2) Notwithstanding sub-regulation (1), the provisions of regulations 101.05.5(2); 101.05.8(1)(b), (c) and (d); 101.05.9(1)(a) and (b) do not apply to the private operation of RPAS.

(3) Private operations of RPAS shall be conducted only in R-VLOS with a Class 1A or 1B RPA.

Private operations are also exempted from Sub-regulations:101.05.21 – 25

Restricted visual line-of-sight* – means an operation within 500 m of the remote pilot and below the height of the highest obstacle within 300 m of the RPA, which the remote pilot maintains direct unaided visual contact with the RPA to manage its flight and meet separation and collision avoidance responsibilities;  

  1. It is the full responsibility of the remote pilot of the RPAS to fly his/her aircraft safely and not endanger the safety of another aircraft, any person, or property.
  2. The remote pilot must observe all statutory requirements relating to liability, privacy, and any other laws enforceable by any other authorities. 

1.      Private operations of RPAS shall be conducted:

  • only in R-VLOS
  • with a Class 1A or 1B RPA (mass < 7 kg, Impact energy* < 15 kJ) 

2.      Do not fly RPA: 

  • Near manned aircraft
  • 10 km or closer to an aerodrome (airport, helipad, or airfield)
  • In controlled, restricted, or prohibited

3.      Do not fly RPA 50m or closer from: 

  • Any person or group of persons (like sports fields, road races, stadiums, schools, social events, etc.)
  • Public road
  • Any property without permission from the property owner 

4.    Only fly RPA in daylight and clear weather conditions

Follow the general rules listed above, but check for updates by visiting the regulator’s links provided.

Notes for operating Commercial Drone Services in South Africa

Authorization and licensing is a complex process. Please check with the SACAA directly for specifics.

What you must know about France No Fly Zones or No Drone Zones

You need to know if you can operate your drone, under what limitations, whether authorizations are required, and how to get those authorizations.

We encourage you to read our explainer for more details on this topic here: Explainer – What You Must Know About No Fly Zones or No Drone Zones

No-fly zones

There are a number of no-fly zones in South Africa. As mentioned earlier you can’t fly a drone above or adjacent to military zones, aerodromes, airports and helipads. Other no-fly zones include:

  • a nuclear power plant
  • a prison
  • a police station
  • a crime scene
  • a court of law
  • national key points 

Drones can’t be flown in national parks and protected/conservation areas. This is because some visitors use their drones to disturb or chase wild animals. Only drones used for wildlife conservation and research purposes are allowed, subject to special permission.

Where are the no-fly zones in South Africa?

We have been unable to locate an official website from the regulator which shows the no fly zones in South Africa. However, we have found a user generated map which highlights user-experienced mapping of no-fly zones. Please see the map below. You can view it here, or click to go the source map.

Useful published information on flying drones in South Africa

Here is a sample of what you might expect if you follow the drone laws and fly in South Africa…

NOTE: Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS), Small UAS, Remote Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS), unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), and drone are interchangeable terms unless specified. Model Aircraft, toy, remote-controlled, and RC aircraft may be covered by the same regulations unless specified.

Find out why we think you must use a Drone Preflight Checklist and a Drone Post-flight checklist

Free Drone Flight Checklist PDF

This Drone Flight Checklists is better than others.

It’s free!

It includes both the preflight checklist and post-flight checklist

It’s an easy to use printable pdf that covers all your bases.

Traveling with a Drone?

Click here to read our Comprehensive Guide For Traveling With A Drone.


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The content on this site (The latest Drone Laws/Drone Regulations) is collated by volunteers from public general information. This material is not presented as legal advice of any kind, and we cannot guarantee that the information is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. Do not substitute the information you find here for legal advice from a licensed attorney who is authorized to practice in the jurisdiction. When in doubt, contact the local aviation authority responsible for drone safety, utilize a licensed drone service operator, and/or consult a qualified attorney.

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49 thoughts on “Drone Laws in South Africa”

    • Caroline, we have updated our page above to provide an unofficial map showing South Africa no-fly zones.
      Regarding your question on drone batteries, this is purely a function of the types of batteries and chargers you have.

    • 1. 50m or closer from any property without permission from the owner
      2. Not closer any person or group person(like sport field, road races and schools)
      Yes the battery may be charge on roads

  1. Do I need to register a drone if it weighs more than 250g or does it not matter as long as it is not heavier than 7kg and for recreational purposes only? And does the less than 250g weight law for licenses apply here in SA?

    • Eduard, please see our previous answer regarding registration. Unfortunately, the same ambiguity shows up regarding remote pilots license

  2. Do I still need to register for a license if the drone/aircraft weighs less than 250g? Because I know in most countries you don’t need a license if your drone weighs less than 250g

    • Eduard, as we understand from the regulations, all RPAS are required to register. However, the SACAA also show a table indicating. certificate of registration is not required for “Private Operation.”
      We recommend you register the craft, or contact the regulator to get a definitive answer.
      Please let us know what you find out

  3. Good evening
    hope you well
    I would like to find where i can go to get permits to fly drones in cape town as I have 20 pilots coming from Holland wanting to fly when they get here

  4. Are the drone laws diverse as our localities meaning if I’m in the rural areas must I operate like in an urban area:
    For example line of sight – is it determined by an eye test when also factoring lights.
    Is it economical in a wide area to chase a drone to comply with the rules when it can easily cover 2km radius of private rural property.

  5. May the neighborhood watches in coastal towns fly drones at night.?
    Crime is high along the coast in small coastal towns at night, especially during loadshedding, and all task forces work together, but with no success.

  6. Good morning

    Hope you can answer a few questions I have regarding setting up a Drone training centre in Cape Town.
    1. Requirements and process to obtain an ATO to start a drone training centre?

    2. Requirements and process to obtain a ROC to operate drones commercially?

    3. Is a ROC required to run a training centre or is only an ATO required?

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Kind regards

    • Sharon, please contact the regulator directly. We do not have this information and its beyond the scope of this site.

  7. I wish SACAA would have FAQ section with all questions like that answered CONSISTENTLY in the same way. I have asked some questions to CAA only to get different answers.

  8. As usual, we probably follow what the FAA does.

    We expect that operators who become a nuisance will lead to a requirement for remote identification of the drone and the controller – to be able to identify, find and take action against any operator breaching the proximity rules near people which cause safety & nuisance issues. I see drones hovering over our private property which is within 10 km of an airport, as mentioned in some of the comments above.

    Without tools to identify craft / operators, the only remedy – even for law enforcement – would appear to be to capture the drone using nets fired from a firearm or to simply shoot it down. It may be possible to use frequency jamming technology, but that could cause a crash and possible harm.

    FAA Link for convenience, dated April 21, 2021 – see the PDF’s : https://www.faa.gov/newsroom/new-drone-rules-take-effect-today

    • But in South Africa we don’t exactly follow what FAA does. We are much stricter than FAA for commercial flying (looks like you have to buy whole diary farm to make little bit of money on selling milk) and less so for hobby (as we don’t have the 250g threshold).

  9. The local school where my daughter teaches has asked me to do a fly over of the school as a pro mo for the school. I do not have a license and am not going to charge them.
    Staying 50m from people and buildings will this be ok?

    • Jeff, if this can be considered private use then you should have no issues. We recommend you get clarification from the regulator. Follow the links at the top of the page and look for contact information on their site.

  10. The drone industry in our country is terribly overpriced and monopolized to marginalize others who don’t have money to partake in it. Compare our prices to US and Europe, we must pay 8 times more while er can already operate the drone and all the information is available online. Robbery

  11. We have in the last year had a Drone hovering for over 20 minutes at a time over our garden in broad daylight, and also at night over our pool while swimming. please advise on the regulation around this, and how to report this?

  12. Good morning
    Your assistance will be appreciated.
    Please could you advise me if these are the only documents/certificates required by the operator to operate a drone over a residential property in a controlled airspace.
    1) Remote Operators Certificate
    2) Remote Pilot License with valid aviation medical
    3) Air service license
    4) RPAS Drone registration
    5) RPAS letter of approval
    6) 3rd party liability Insurance
    7) Copy of operation specification to operate in a controlled airspace if applicable
    8) Consent from the land owner
    9) Valid radio station license


    • Paddy, in our interpretation above we shared the following:
      “Unless approved by the SACAA, DO NOT fly/operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft or toy aircraft:
      Near manned aircraft
      10 km or closer to an aerodrome (airport, helipad, airfield)
      Weighing more than 7 kg
      In controlled airspace
      In restricted airspace
      In prohibited airspace.”
      Conversely, approval is not required if you are not violating those guidelines.

    • Gavin, the current regulations require a remote pilot’s license to operate a drone. We don’t see any current exemptions.

      • My reading of the existing regs and the proposed regs is that a remote pilot’s license is only required for operations for commercial purposes, and not for private, hobbyist use. And yet you say “Gavin, the current regulations require a remote pilot’s license to operate a drone. We don’t see any current exemptions.” Please clarify.

  13. I am finding various various published opinions on the maximum flying height for private recreational drones. According to a government notice published by the Department of Transport, CAA Act, 2009 (Act 13 of 2009) I understand that 400ft (120m) is the maximum flight level permitted in South Africa.
    Amendment of Part 1 – Section 2 (n) – The definition of “visual flight rules” – means the operation below 400ft above ground level in which the remote pilot maintains direct and unaided visual contact with the RPA at a distance not exceeding 500m.

    This publication states that “Do not fly/operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft, or toy aircraft higher than 150 ft from the ground, unless approved by the Director of Civil Aviation of the SACAA.”

    What is the correct maximum flight height ???

      • Hi Merlin

        What is the criteria & process to apply for approval from the SACAA ?
        Considering I fly a DJI Mini 2 which is under 250g, I am not aware of any ‘qualification’ that I need to have to fly this mini drone.

        Your advise is appreciated.

        • Derik, it is our understanding that you will require a Remote Pilots License (RPL). There are exemptions based on prior training (see licensing area above). We are not aware of an exemption for the mini drone. After you are properly licensed, you can follow the registration process for your drone (see registration section above).
          As always, check with SACAA directly as regulations are being updated. Please come back and tell us what you learned.

    • Richard, that would be the SACAA. You must have had appropriate training as we describe above. Unfortunately, it looks like the Technical Guidance Material is no longer connected online as it is being revised. You can try contacting the SACAA at rpasInbox@caa.co.za.

  14. Does this mean that in South Africa you can fly a drone for personal recreational non commercial purposes without having to apply for a licence?

    • Tauriq, a sensor (camera/infrared camera, etc.) are standard allowed payloads. We assume you are thinking of delivery or other kinds of payload in which case this will be a commercial application. You will need to contact SACAA (follow the link at the top of the page for contact details).


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