South Africa: Cape Province gets licence for agric drones

After it broke new ground by being the first government organisation to obtain a Remote Operator’s Certificate (ROC) of any kind for its search and rescue operation in the Table Mountains, the Western Cape provincial government in South Africa has scored another first on its dronification journey.

This time it is the provincial government’s Department of Agriculture that has acquired an ROC – now known as the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operating Systems Certification (UASOC) – from the aviation regulator, the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).

Congratulations, Western Cape Department of Agriculture.

We know how hard it is to obtain an operator’s certificate; let alone one for an agricultural drone business, which comes with extra requirements for handling chemical sprays.

But the WCDoA has done it, and it reckons this development positions it as a leader in leveraging unmanned aerial vehicles for transformative technological practices in the agricultural sector.

“This is good news for the sector as it will benefit the agricultural sector,” said Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer.

“The WCDoA is committed to embracing cutting-edge technology and propelling the agricultural sector into a new era. The certification ensures that our drone operations comply with aviation regulations. It will also elevate our research and engineering efforts and service delivery.

“The Western Cape Government has taken up innovation and technology to improve service delivery to the citizens of the Western Cape. The latest aviation certification allows us to bring another innovative dimension to the agricultural sector and improve service delivery to our agricultural industries. Our SACAA accreditation aligns with our undertaking to embrace the 4th industrial revolution.”

Confident of the success of their application, the department has already purchased a fleet of agricultural drones, which it says will serve the province’s evolving agricultural needs; which include sprayer, multispectral, LiDAR, and RTK drones.

“Our skilled drone pilots, having undergone specialised training, are adept at utilising the unique capabilities of each drone in our fleet. Their expertise ensures precision and efficiency in various applications, from precision agriculture to engineering endeavours,” said Meyer, adding that integrating drone technology into the department’s agricultural practices and related research aligns with its commitment to sustainability.

“Drones, backed by technology-supported research, enable us to optimise resource usage, reduce environmental impact, and contribute to sustainable farming practices. This achievement underscores our commitment to service delivery, leveraging technology to address the challenges faced by our farmers and supporting the sector in its sustainability journey.

“Innovation and technology are key focuses of the Western Cape Government’s Growth for Jobs strategy.  The WCDoA’s UASOC Certification is but another building block towards strengthening the agricultural sector’s ability to contribute to the growth of the Western Cape economy and create jobs.”

This will not be the first time the Western Cape has conduct with agricultural drones though, as agriculture start-ups Integrated Aerial Systems and Aerobotics, which are based in the province, received their drone certification in the past few years.

These two have been using their drone fleets to work the winelands and other fields in the province and beyond.

Outside Western Cape, KwaZulu Natal-based PacSys is also another licenced agriculture drone operator, with a footprint across the country.


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