Durban - Wanting to receive a drone as your next birthday present? Don’t be fooled. Even if you easily pick one up in the toy aisle, they are not child’s play.
Licensed operators report hearing of several cases in which drones were being used in public spaces, such as along the busy Durban beachfront.
Any person who purchases a drone, even if it’s a toy, needs to follow the guidelines set down by the Civil Aviation Authority, the body in charge of regulating the safety and security of the airspace.
The rules state that:
• You are not allowed to operate a drone 50m or closer from any person or groups of people, such as a sports field, sporting activities, schools or social events.
• You are not allowed to operate the drone near any property without express permission from the property owner, and you are not allowed, either through act or omission, to endanger the safety of another aircraft.
• You cannot operate a drone near manned aircraft, 10km or closer to an aerodrome (airport, helipad or airfield), if it weighs more than 7kg, or in a restricted or prohibited airspace.
• You cannot operate the device higher than 122m from the ground, unless approved by the director of Civil Aviation of the SA Civil Aviation Authority.
• The drone must be in your visual line of sight at all times, and can only be operated in good weather.
• No licence to operate a drone is required if it is for personal use. However, a certificate is required for a company to use a drone for business purposes, and a person operating a drone also needs a licence.
But drone operators said they were aware of drones being sold without any information being given to customers.
Lucy Erasmus, chief flight instructor at BAC Helicopters, said she had been at a well-known retailer where a sales assistant was informing a customer about the advantages of a drone.
“I asked the assistant why they did not inform the customer about the licence should the customer wish to use it for business purposes, and was told that they were instructed by the manager to not do so, as it deterred the customer from making the purchase. This is a major problem,” she said.
Possibly the message to use drones wisely hasn't filtered to the general public. Jacques van Jaarsveld, who sells and repairs drones, said the majority of repairs for drones came from those who operated drones as a hobby.
“About 90% to 95% of my repairs are from drones that have crashed, usually operated by a child under 18 years old.
"This is a danger as the drone could land on someone’s face and they could get lacerations to the face from the blades of the drone," said Van Jaarsveld.
"The professional drone users generally take care of their equipment,” he said.
As part of his mission to educate and inform the public, Van Jaarsveld said he offered free training on drones, along with information about the do's and don’ts of operating a drone.
“We educate the customer on the product and advise them on common problems encountered when flying a drone, and solutions that can be applied, and this could limit the event of a crash,” he said.
Van Jaarsveld added that the flying of drones at the beach was a big problem.
“On any given morning, there are four or five drones being flown around the beach. This is a public area and drones should not be here,” he insisted.
THE INDEPENDENT ON SATURDAY