New drone body launched in South Africa

We know there are other associations for drone stakeholders in South Africa. But this one seems to have the backing of government structures.

In a massive recognition of the growth of the drone industry in South Africa, the country’s Minister of Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) today officially launched the Drone Council of South Africa, an organisation that seeks to house drone stakeholders in the country under one roof for a common cause.

“This is a historic moment in SA. When our department was mandated to champion 4IR, one of the things we identified was the need to establish a solid foundation for drone operations in SA,” said DCDT minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

The Drone Council finally saw its birth today after a delay of more than a month, after stakeholders kept pushing the launch date from May 2020 because of lockdown rules effected to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the country. The idea for a Drone Council SA was first mooted in 2019, as an industry response to create a platform of affiliation by the various established companies and new entrants into the industry. This followed Drone Economy discussions led by the then Department of Economic Development (now in DTIC) initiated between government, the drone industry, training institutions, research bodies and regulators.

Resultant consultations led to the creation of a Drone Economy Workgroup, which was tasked to work three themes that comprise Drone Industry SMME Incubation and Licensing, Drone Industry Development and Drone Industry Data and regulatory environment.

The inaugural council board will be led by chairperson Irvin Phenyane, who is also a non-executive-director of Airports Company South Africa and the Transport Education and Training Authority. Other members include Rugged Africa chairperson Angelina Ntombikayise Maseko; Ken Venn, UAV Industries founder; president of the Association of Aviation Training Organisations of South Africa, Shaun Ledlie; Kelebogile Molopyane, CEO for AB4IR; and Jack Shilubana, Managing Director Ntiyiso Aviation Services.

Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams

Membership is open to entities that include Licence Or Permit Holders, Licence Or Permit Applicants, Allied Associations, Graduate Development In Allied Sectors, Drone Pilots, Cadets & Incubatees, Manufacturers And Technicians, Drone Enthusiasts and/or Leisure Users; and State Owned Companies.

The council says its main objective is to organise its members and other stakeholders to enhance robust development of the drone economy in South Africa and stimulate public education and creating excitement about the drone economy across the country’s economic spectrum. 

It has set to achieve the following goals in the next three years:

  • SA Drone Economy should formally have a country strategy to claim at least 5% market share of the global drone economy.
  • Institutionalise a catch-up action plan between government, regulators and drone business. Further institutionalising a dynamic drone business council to help industry to self-regulate, register and monitor.
  • Focus on the parts of the value chain that are applicable in Africa as well as projecting a global commercial appeal.
  • Enable the industry to grow on a commercial level platform, by removing the perception that regulators are every drone operators’ competitor.
  • By increasing investment into human capital in the drone industry. to operate drones and innovate new drone related services.
  • Fast-track and increase investment in innovation, research and development in the drone sector.

Hopes among the drone community are high that this could be the ultimate home of the drone industry in South Africa, which would galvanise other unmanned aerial systems associations like CUAASA (Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Association of South Africa), SAFU (South African Federation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems) and the Private Drone Association of South Africa.

We also wait to see if the new council will work with the South African Civil Aviation Authority to see drone regulations becoming more friendly to operators.

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