RPAS tests for the City of Cape Town. Picture: Bruce Sutherland/City of Cape Town.
RPAS tests for the City of Cape Town. Picture: Bruce Sutherland/City of Cape Town.

City of Cape Town’s R500k drones stuck in limbo

By Marvin Charles Time of article published Sep 22, 2020

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Cape Town – The City of Cape Town is sitting on 15 drones it purchased last year, waiting for licences from the Civil Aviation Authority, whose complicated application process is hampering the rollout of the technology to fight crime.

The City is only in phase one of the five-phase licence process.

Executive director for safety and security Richard Bosman said the city manager signed off on a report authorising the safety and security director to represent him during the application.

“When we followed up, we were informed that they were not reviewing any applications during lockdown. On a second follow up, they indicated that they are now ready to look at our application and we resubmitted on July 22, 2020.

“The drones that the City purchased are being used for training,” Bosman said.

He said the City had identified the use of a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) to be an effective tool for intelligence gathering and decision making.

“As such, the RPAS will be used at any incident or event where aerial views of an incident or activity is required or in circumstances where human observance is hampered.

“This includes incidents where potential loss of life/property can be prevented through accurate identification and location, search and rescue operations and general firefighting operations.”

In August last year, the City announced it had trained six drone pilots and purchased a number of drones to help combat crime and inspect bridges.

It had reportedly spent more than R500 000 on drones.

According to the City the drones were acquired via tender and request for quotation. They have been procured in the last two financial years.

The City said it had purchased 15 drones.

There are two qualified pilots, six learner pilots, while two additional learner plots sent for training last October are in the process of being licensed.

According to a report that was tabled at a recent mayoral committee meeting, the safety and security directorate stated: “The SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) indicated that they will not be able to review the safety and security directorates’ RPAS application due to the pandemic and countrywide lockdown.

“It must be noted that our application was sent more than two weeks prior to the lockdown.”

According to the SACAA , the City is at phase one of a five-phase certification process.

Phase one is a pre-application process that familiarises the applicant with expectations and details requirements for each phase of the application process.

Spokesperson for the SACAA Kabelo Ledwabe said: “We received the City of Cape Town’s letter of intent on July 22.

“We have since engaged the City on expectations and requirements and this will be formalised in a pre-application meeting that has been pencilled for end of September.”

Ledwabe said the speed at which an application gets finalised depended largely on the complexity of the transaction and the applicant’s state of readiness.

“It is vital to reiterate that the more detailed the submission the quicker the turnaround times,” he said.

Cape Argus

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