Newsletter February 2016 - Some aviation matters, also with regard to drones


Some aviation matters, also with regard to drones

Article 47 of the Act on National Environmental Management – Protected Areas Act, no 57 of 2003, regulates the use of airplanes, helicopters and other aircraft in special reserves, national parks and World Heritage Sites. In this regard it is important to take note of the minimum height on which an aircraft may be flown, 2500 feet above the highest point in the relevant reserve, park or area. Exceptions do exists as indicated in sub article (2) and (3A) of the Act. According to these articles these restrictions do not have to be adhered to during a crisis or if the persons are acting on instructions of the management authority of the reserve, park or area. These restrictions apply to private persons as well as government bodies.

With regard to general requirements for aircraft certain restrictions are indicated in the Civil Aviation Regulations of 2011, and we would like to highlight some, like:

-              Every aircraft must be in possession of a registration certificate;

-              The aircraft must be branded in such a way that the nationality and the applicable registration marks there-off are clearly visible as per the instructions;

-              Markings on an aircraft that prohibits the clear indication of its nationality or registration are banned.

Taking into account the previous indications of the minimum height requirements when flying over a reserve, national park or World Heritage Site, the following is applicable to other areas:

-              No aircraft may fly lower than 1000 feet of the highest point within a radius of 2000 feet from the aircraft over urban areas or outdoor gatherings of people;

-              When a flight has to occur over an above mentioned area, the aircraft may not fly lower as 500 feet above land or water. If such a flight can take place without disturbing persons on land or on the water, while it is on a height that will be safe for flight if the aircraft should lose an engine, the pilot in control may fly lower;

-              No aircraft may fly lower than 3000 feet over an outdoor gathering circle.

Take note – A helicopter may be permitted to fly lower as instructed above if such a flight can take place without danger for persons or property, and if the pilot can fly safely should the aircraft lose an engine.  


Section 101 of the Civil Aviation Regulations regulates the use of drones and specifies that no drone may be flown in the Republic of South Africa if the owner is not in the possession of a letter of approval. This letter of approval is valid for a period of one year.

Some of the legal restrictions are:

-              No one may use a drone for commercial, corporate or non-profit activities if the operator is not in the possession of a valid operator certificate;

-              No person may use a public road for the landing or take-off of a drone;

-              A drone may not be used in controlled airspace;

-              No object or substance may be dropped or released from a drone;

-              Drones may not be used higher than 400 feet from ground level;

-              It may not be used within a radius of 10 kilometres from an airport or in restricted or prohibited air space;

-              It may not be used close to or above any nuclear power station, jail, Police station, crime scene, court, national key point or strategic installation;

-              A drone may not be used at night or to fly directly above any person or group of persons within a lateral distance of 50m above the person/persons;

-              The restriction with regard to 50m also applies to any structure or building as well as alongside a public road or with regard to the lateral distance from a public road.

The relevant legislation also indicates criminal sanctions for any breach there-of which includes a fine or jail time of no longer than 10 years, or both a fine and time in jail.