Licenced To Fly

Dave Estment, Licenced Drone Pilot

In my last aerial videography and photography article Drone Time, or Not? I highlighted the pros and cons of this new technology and flying platform which has taken the film and photographic industries by storm in the last couple of years.We have been waiting for the new legislation governing the drone industry with bated breath, and it is finally upon us. South Africa has embraced the challenge of putting realistic, achievable legislation and professional training in place, in line with first world countries like the USA and some countries in Europe and Asia.

Eight of us arrived on the 26th of October at Petit Airfield in the far east of Johannesburg, not really knowing what to expect in terms of course content and the methodology used by what materialised into a great team of instructors, led by Ian Melamed of ProWings Training, who has the only RPL Instructor and examiner rating recognised by the South African CAA.

Melamed said “Drone Pilots have become an essential part of the Film Industry. When the new Regulations were announced, there was extreme unhappiness. The commercial use of Drones has mushroomed in South Africa. Licenced Drone Pilots will soon return to help in the fight against Rhino Poachers.” He added that “it was only a matter of time before the Civil Aviation Authority would have to introduce Regulations to protect the safety of all Aviation Users. The challenge is to incorporate Drone Pilots into Aviation Space as quickly as possible and welcome them as fellow Aviators.”

The theory in the RPL course is based on the PPL (Private Pilots Licence) theory, which covers subjects like Principles of Flight, Meteorology, Air Law, Human Factors, Flight Performance and Planning, Restricted Radio and Telephony, Operational Procedures and RPAS in general.

Well, it was quite intense! Here’s a quick summary of what went down:

1 hell of a course!

2 weeks full-time at Petit Airfield in the far east (of JHB)

3 DJI Inspire Pilots who became friends and will probably collaborate going forward

4 flying instructors and examiners

5 other RPL students who fly fixed wing and some weird remote control contraptions 🙂

6 AM I left home every day to travel 89 Km to the airfield and 89 Km back home again that evening

7 subjects in 7 thick manuals

8 students qualifying for the first Remote Pilots Licence (RPL) courses held in South Africa

9 AM every day lectures started for 2 weeks of information overload and lots of laughs

10 / 4 good buddies! We all passed with flying colours!

OV&P is now officially licenced to operate drones commercially and we are proud to add this new perspective to our esteemed clients’ video and photo portfolios. There are some loose ends we need to tie up in the form of ROC’s, etc. but that will take time and we are likely paving the way for future RPAS pilots to have clear procedural and safety folios to help them operate these awesome flying video and photographic platforms professionally and safely.

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