20 July 2015
A female pilot had been awarded the first drone licence on the continent, the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) said yesterday.
“The licence was issued on 10 July to Nicole Swart,” said spokesperson Phindiwe Gwebu. “It makes her the first person to receive such a licence in South Africa, the continent, and most parts of the world.”
Swart, 23, holds the highest pilot’s licence, namely the airline transport pilot’s licence. When not flying remotely piloted aircraft or a traditional manned aircraft, she works as a testing standards officer in aviation personnel standards, at the SACAA.
“It was important for me to get a remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) pilot’s licence, as I believe technology is advancing rapidly and in the near future this mode of transport will be as common and necessary as cellular phones are in this era,” Swart said.
“I therefore wanted to ensure that when that time comes, I am already a step ahead.”
Many countries are still formulating regulations for the administration of drones, or RPAS in aviation jargon. They are controlled either from the ground or by another aircraft.
SACAA is processing about 10 drone pilot licences and 15 operator ones, following regulations for drones that came into effect at the beginning of the month.
Swart can use her licence to fly a drone for corporate, commercial, or leisure purposes.
Drones can be used to fight crime by providing aerial surveillance, assist conservation efforts, and can be used in scientific research.