Drones: Fad or future?

By Danielle van Wyk

Drones have in many ways ushered in a new technological era with everyone from hobbyists to professional drone racers taking to it. It has allowed us a front-row seat to many events, enabled us to monitor environmental phenomena and in some cases simply spy on the neighbours.

According to Yahoo Finance, the personal unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), purchased mainly by consumers for shooting pictures and videos, make up 94% of the market. With the drone craze having seriously filtered into South Africa in the last few months, the question begs: will this be the year of the drone?

The drone footprint…

The real explosion of the drone trend has been most evident in the world of information technology (IT). With technology being updated almost daily, the use of drones has extended to forestry conservation, farming surveys and even medical experiments.

The fact remains that drones are cheaper, more environmentally friendly and less labour intensive than a helicopter or an aeroplane for example. In addition, they are built to withstand intense wind speed, cloud cover, rain and harsh sea conditions.  

If you’re still of the opinion that drones are simply ‘cool toys’, DroneCon 2017 saw Dr Roelof Botha detailing the expected revenue contribution of the drone industry. According to Botha commercial drone activities are set to generate more than R2 billion in gross revenue and have the potential to create 25,000 jobs this year alone.

The cost of drones

The price of the drone depends on what you intend to use it for. According to The Gadget Shop a drone can set you back between R500 and R30 000 for the more high-end products.

If you thought the drone was merely a toy, this price range may force you to reconsider. According to the Gadget Shop the big question about the status of drones in South Africa is whether it is a toy or a drone.

“Perhaps the most obvious difference between a radio-controlled aircraft used for recreation purposes and a drone is that if the aircraft is being used for the sole purpose of recreational or sporting purposes then it falls under the Recreation Aviation Administration South Africa – RAASA.

“On the other hand, aircrafts used for commercial and professional or aerial work will be classified as a drone and would be regulated by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA),” Gadget shop details.

To ensure that you do not land your drone on the wrong side of the law so to speak, decide first if you are operating it for private use, as a hobby or for commercial purposes.

According to South African drone legislation, the following applies:

-Operators are banned from using remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) to tow other aircrafts, perform aerial or aerobatic displays, or fly them in formation or swarm.

-Operators are banned from flying 400 feet above ground

-Flying within a 10 km radius of an airfield is also prohibited

-Operators are also banned from flying within restricted or prohibited airspace; or

-Near or above sensitive areas, including a nuclear power plant, prison, police station, crime scene, or court.

DroneCon 2018

If your interest has been peaked and you are itching to give flying a drone a try or you are simply intrigued by the use of drones in different industries, consider visiting the Drone Con 2018.

When: May 16 – May 18 2018
Where: Vodacom World Conference Venue –Midrand, Johannesburg

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