New Regulations for Drone in the South African Film Industry:

Technology & Convergence

As the process of creating new regulations for RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aerial Systems, commonly referred to as drones) comes to completion, the film industry is very eager to begin using camera drones again. Legal drone operations will be possible with the full blessing of the SACAA (Civil Aviation Authority), and through some 50 pages of new regulations and technical specifications, specific to RPAS drone operations in SA airspace. It is anticipated that the new drone regulations will be promulgated towards the end of March 2015.
Benefits of Camera Drones in the Film Industry:

Camera drones are able to achieve shots that were previously difficult or impossible to achieve. They offer the film industry a unique perspective, with the ability to capture new visual footage lower than typical full sized helicopters, and higher and with less restriction of camera movement than typical crane or jib shots. Drone operators are typically cheaper to hire than full sized aircraft, and more mobile with less disruption on the film set. While camera drones do not replace existing film equipment, they are becoming very popular tools available to the film industry.
New Regulations a Good Fit for the Film Industry:

The new regulations will allow Camera Drones of up to 20kg total takeoff weight (future regulations will allow for up to 150kg and beyond). As typical camera drones vary in size from 1kg (GoPro type drone) to 20kg (Red Epic type drone), the regulations are a good fit technically, for immediate use on feature films, commercials, corporate shoots, etc.

The aviation industry is well respected for its high level of safety, and commercial film drone operators should strive to bring a high level of safety and reliability to their drone operations in the film industry.
A RPAS Pilot License is Required:
Much like one needs a license to drive a car, ride a motorbike or fly an aircraft, all commercial and private drone operators will be required to complete training and obtain a drone pilot license (theory exam and practical demonstration).
Any remote controlled aircraft used for any purpose other than purely for "fun” is defined as an RPAS, and the regulations apply to any RPAS including remote controlled multirotors, RC aeroplanes (fixed wing) and RC helicopters.
Commercial operators will also be required to meet a number of standards and submit quite a number of documents before receiving permission from the SACAA to operate commercially. These requirements include:

    ROC - RPAS Operators Certificate (annually renewed document achieved by the commercial drone operator company only after all paperwork and credentials are in place).

    RPAS Pilot License for the category of drone to be operated.

    Certificate of Registration of each RPA (drone aircraft).

    Operations Manual specific to the operator - key important document generated by the operator detailing all flight operations and safety measures.

    Insurance - including suitable liability insurance.

    Business registration and compliance documents.

    Certificate of Proficiency in Radiotelephony (to communicate with manned aircraft and ATC).

    Air Services License (permission to operate aircraft for commercial purpose).

    Specific approval for regular drone filming operations near people, buildings, roads and controlled airspace including flying within 10km of an aerodrome.

    Licensed operators may be given special permission through ROC and Operations Manual specific to the operator, to operate within 50m from people, buildings, roads, and within controlled airspace (such as near airports), flying at night, etc. They may require permits from local authorities where bylaws are in place (for example all SA National Parks are a no fly area for drones or any aircraft below 1500 feet).

Commercial operators will also be required to:

    carry an air radio to communicate with manned aircraft and ATC.

    carry a fire extinguisher and first aid kit.

    carry RPAS Pilot License, RPAS Operator Certificate (ROC) and Operations Manual specific to that operator.

Employing Licensed Operators:

Production companies who employ drone operators who are not licensed and who do not have all credentials are at risk.

Before confirming a camera drone operator for a shoot, production companies will want to request, at a minimum:

    a copy of the operators RPAS Pilot License.

    a copy of the ROC document (annually renewed document achieved by the commercial drone operator company only after all paperwork and credentials are in place).

    Proof of insurance.

Local bylaws may require additional special permits from local authorities, issued only to fully licensed operators with correct credentials.

What about Smaller Drones?

Even a small 1kg drone used for recce or basic shots falls under commercial or corporate use, and therefore the operator will need a RPAS Pilots License and appropriate credentials, and each drone will need to be registered with SACAA before it is used commercially.

Only flying purely for "fun” is permitted without a license with a drone of up to 7kg, however such operation needs to be below 400 feet, within 500m of the pilot (LOS), and more than 50m from people, buildings, roads, and more than 10km from aerodromes. This rules out "fun” flying in just about all urban areas.

Expected Timelines:

    It is anticipated that the new drone regulations will be promulgated towards the end of March 2015.
    Implementation may take a number of months, and will have a number of challenges as the SACAA adapts paperwork and processes to allow for the new regulations, and commercial operators strive to achieve compliance.

Commercial operators who have been a part of the many meetings and debates with SACAA and affected parties, particularly over the last year, may have the upper hand in understanding the regulations and achieving compliance before others. However it has been made clear that no application will be given special attention or be fast tracked. Due process will need to be followed by all to achieve compliance.

The new regulations drafted by and proposed by SACAA have been praised by both local and international industry experts, as well as international aviation authorities.

"We are confident that as experienced film industry drone operators we will be able to comply with, and operate successfully within the bounds of the new SACAA drone regulations.” — John Gore (Drone Crew)

Source: FilmMaker Africa 24 February 2015