Drone Laws in South Africa

Agencies Responsible for regulating drones in the Republic of South Africa

South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA)

Updated April 1, 2022


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.

Do:

  • Fly/operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft, or toy aircraft in a safe manner, at all times.
  • Remotely Piloted Aircraft or toy aircraft should remain within the visual line of sight at all times.
  • 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 field, 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?

In accordance with 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 Airworthiness Forms page of the website.

Pilot Licensing Requirements for flying a drone in South Africa

Prior to 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.

Credits

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 licence and rating; or 
  3. An air traffic control licence, or a military qualification equivalent to an air traffic control licence.
  4. Commercial air unmanned aircraft operations experience 

Prior to 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 of 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 clicking here.


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; 

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.


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 aircraft, Remote controlled aircraft, and RC aircraft may be covered by the same regulations unless specified.


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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16 thoughts on “Drone Laws in South Africa”

    • 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.

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

      Reply
  1. 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 ???

    Reply
      • 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.

        Reply
        • 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.

          Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  2. 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?

    Reply
    • 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).

      Reply

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