Africa’s largest heliport urgently shut down due to illegal drone activity directly in the helicopter flight path. Picture: SUPPLIED
Africa’s largest heliport urgently shut down due to illegal drone activity directly in the helicopter flight path. Picture: SUPPLIED

Helicopters grounded after drones spotted flying in chopper flight path

By IOL Reporter Time of article published May 5, 2021

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DURBAN - Helicopters at Africa's largest heliport were grounded yesterday after an employee at Ultimate Heliport noticed two drones flying directly in the flight path of the Ultimate Heliport.

A spokesperson for the company said the employee was driving to work when they noticed the two drones.

"Due to the risk of collision with helicopters and a possible fatal collision between a helicopter and one of the drones, Ultimate Heliport immediately suspended all flights until such time that security officers were able to investigate and the airspace was clear of drone activity," the spokesperson said.

Africa’s largest heliport urgently shut down due to illegal drone activity directly in the helicopter flight path. Picture: SUPPLIED

Africa’s largest heliport urgently shut down due to illegal drone activity directly in the helicopter flight path. Picture: SUPPLIED

The heliport was closed for an hour and caused disruptions to Gauteng emergency helicopter services that operate from Ultimate Heliport.

Air Ambulance operators, Netcare 911 and HALO Aviation who provide critical support to the community for fatal car accidents, hospital transfers and emergency medical care as well as surveillance operators such as Bidvest Protea Coin, Netstar and SBV were all forced to ground their flights.

Upon further investigation, it was established that Hilti South Africa were operating these two drones over their offices that is 550 meters away from the heliport.

The incident has been reported to the South African Civil Aviation Authority for further investigation.

According to https://uavcoach.com/ here are the most important rules to know for flying a drone in South Africa.

  • Drones may not be flown 10 kilometres or closer to an airport without special permission from the SACAA.
  • Drones weighing more than 7 kilograms (15.4 pounds) may not be flown.
  • Drones may not be flown within 50 meters (164 feet) of people or private property (without permission from the property owner).
  • Drone pilots must maintain a visual line of contact with their drones at all times while in flight.
  • Drones may only be flown during daylight hours.

According to the SANPark website, the use of drones inside (and over) our national parks is strictly prohibited.

IOL

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