When can you use a drone to take photos in South Africa


Wright Rose Innes law firm recently dealt with a wedding photographer who wanted to use a drone in his job.

While drones can obviously be used for photography in South Africa in some cases, the answer isn’t always black and white, the company said.

“Yes, you can use a drone, but there are conditions. The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) through Part 101 of the Civil Aviation Regulations governs the use of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) such as drones. These amended regulations were introduced in 2015 and the regulations include limitations for the use of private drones, ”he said.

Some of the main limitations include:

  • A drone cannot fly within 10 km of an aerodome;
  • The drone must not weigh more than 7 kg;
  • Drones cannot fly within 50 meters of people or any structure or building, unless specifically authorized to fly over the property;
  • Drones must fly within the operator’s field of view, unless they are operated by the holder of an RPAS Operator Certificate (ROC);
  • Drones can only fly during the day.

“Once a person wishes to use a drone for commercial purposes such as public photography, such person will need to obtain an ROC.

“A ROC is issued by the SACAA and is valid for 12 months. The holder of an ROC is authorized, with the authorization of the director of the SACAA, to operate the drone at night or within 50 meters of people or property.

The holder of an ROC is, however, required to have adequate liability insurance to deal with damage resulting from the use of the drone, the company said.

“Imagine a sudden power failure or a bird strike causing the drone to fall on a person or property. Drones should also be used in good weather conditions and the operator should not operate a drone carelessly or recklessly.

“So you can use a drone to take photos or videos at a wedding and since this is for commercial use, it is advisable to get an ROC and comply with the regulations.”

Wright Rose Innes noted that regardless of the nature of your drone use, you should avoid violating or invading the privacy of others or taking photos or video footage without the necessary consent, as this could also immerse you in hot water.

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