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How To Get A Drone License In SA

Earlier this year, the laws around legal operation of remote control aircraft – aka drones, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Remote Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS) – changed in South Africa, introducing a framework for where and how drones can be flown, and who is allowed to fly them. These new restrictions and regulations don’t, on the whole, apply to the kind of quadcopters that are going to popular as presents this Christmas and if you’re flying a drone for fun the main thing to be aware of is where their use is banned. That’s within 10km of an airport, 50m of a building or road and no higher than 400m. Also, a hobby drone must be flown within line of sight, which means you shouldn’t be flying at night either.


For commercial purposes, things are a bit more complicated. There’s a list of requirements over at the excellent Safe Drone website, and you’ll need to register your drone with the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) and provide documents like an operations manual before you can use your aircraft to make money.


The first thing  anyone who wants to fly a drone will need to do, however, is acquire a Remote Pilots Licence (RPL). Once you have that, as John Gore of Safe Drone points out in the comments below, you can seek employment in the nascent industry and work towards the other requirements to start your own firm. ProWings is the first South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA)-approved RPL training school in South Africa and, for a fee, they’ll help you get a licence.


Drone licence pre-requisites

  • You must be 18 years or older
  • English Language Proficiency
  • Owning a drone is not required
  • Past experience with drones, or flying of any kind is not required

Also Required

  • Class 4 medical

To make sure a pilot is physically able, a medical examination is needed. This includes an “Aviation medical” as well as a chest x-ray. Both of these can be done through ProWings for an additional fee, or through a SACAA-approved doctor. Once this has been passed, a medical certificate will be awarded.

  • Radio Telephony Licence (Restricted)

This is a separate licence that is comprised of up to three exams: Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS), Extended Visual Line Of Sight (EVLOS) and Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS). These three relate to your ability to actually see the drone you are piloting. VLOS and EVLOS deal with seeing the drone with the naked eye and involve written exams. BVLOS applies to operating drone out of your view and is achieved with an online exam. Note, however, that the BVLOS requires a special permission from the SACAA director.

Only one of the three is required for the drone licence, and will dictate how you can operate your drone. The price for all three is included at the bottom of the page. Like the medical, these can be done through SACAA-approved channels at exam centres, or ProWings themselves.


The process

Theory course

For beginners (that is, non-accredited pilots) the theory course is a full-time two-week course.

Accredited pilots are those who hold the following licence(s): Private Pilot Licence (PPL), National Pilot Licence (NPL) and Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL). Accredited pilots only need to attend the second week.

The two weeks of theory are comprised of:

Duration Non- accredited pilots Accredited Pilots
Week 1
  • Air Law
  • Human Performance
  • Meteorology
  • Navigation
No attendance as these subjects have already been covered
Week 2
  • Principles of Flight
  • Operational Procedures
  • Flight Performance Planning and Loading
  • Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) General Knowledge
  • RPAS Regulations and Technical Standards (CAR101 and CATS101)
  • Theoretical and Practical Assessment

Practical exam

After the theory course has been completed, a practical needs to be completed.

These exams are broken down into “ratings”:

  • Fixed-Wing
  • Multi-Rotor
  • Helicopter

The ratings above refer to the type of drone you’re looking to pilot.



You may get multiple ratings, allowing you to pilot different types of drones, but you will need to pay for additional exams (R850 each).

Each exam is around 15 minutes in length, and consists of a pre-flight check, testing of certain manoeuvres and questions to make sure you understand the technical terms relating to piloting the drone.

Language proficiency exam

This is only required if you did not complete matric (or equivalent) with English as a first language subject.

Like the medical exam, this can be done through ProWings or through an SACAA-approved examiner.

An application form is created from the above and submitted to the SACAA

The Student Files will be put together by both ProWings and the person applying to be a licence. An application will be accompanied by

  • Two passport photos
  • Radio Telephony Licence
  • Certified copy of SA identity document
  • Medical certificate
  • Language proficiency (if applicable)
  • Proof of payment to SACAA (of R500)

Licence is awarded (or not)

After submitting theaccplication form to the SACAA, it will decide whether or not to issue a RPL

The SACAA’s turnaround time for a decision varies.

Once the decision is made, they will either contact you with details in claiming the licence or a denial.

In the case of a denial, though, the SACAA will indicate why. Once this problem has been resolved in the Student File, it can be resubmitted, but another R500 application fee will be due.

What it all costs

  • Two-week theory course: R26 250
  • One-week theory course (for accredited pilots): R13 125
  • Radio Telephony Licence: R900
  • Online exam for the above: R260
  • Aviation medical: R1 200
  • Chest X-ray: R600
  • Language Proficiency (where applicable) : R900
  • Designated Flight Examiner (DFE) check-out fee per single type Aircraft: R850
  • RPL application fee (payable to the SACAA): R500

Total estimated cost : R44 575

Licence validity

A Licence is valid for 24 months.

Application for renewal process should be done two months prior to the expiry date.

Revalidation certificate lasts 36 months thereafter.

The licence is only applicable in South Africa.



original article here.

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