It was a story that captured the world’s imagination — emergency blood supplies delivered to remote locations in Rwanda by drone. A joint initiative between the government and a technology company called Zipline used drones to overcome delivery problems and save lives. The 2018 story prompted renewed interest in the application of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) or drones. SA operators say this particular success story relies on a specific set of conditions which wouldn’t apply here, but the consensus seems to be that red tape is holding the industry back, limiting experimentation towards innovative uses. In this country, drones are used commercially for surveying and data collection in mining, agriculture, property and construction — plus image and video processing. This is managed by the SA Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which requires commercial operators to have a remote operator certificate (ROC) and a licence for each pilot and each drone. To qualify for the ROC, companies mu...

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