The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has executed an immediate prohibition on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or camera drones in South Africa. Film shoots intending to use this type of production equipment, now deemed illegal, will no longer be able to obtain film permits.
The SACAA stated that the ban is due to a lack of regulations guiding its use, as it is a relatively new technology, and that the organisation along with others around the world, is in the process of understanding, outlining and incorporating UAVs into the civil aviation sector.
Kabelo Ledwaba, Communications Manager at the SACAA remarked, “There is ongoing global research in this area to overcome this deficiency.”
Professionals in the local film industry are rightly concerned, as there are some substantial implications to this ban. Not only are UAVs used in feature film production, but in tourism adverts and in the tracking of rhinos.
Denis Lillie, Chief Executive of the Cape Town Film Commission (CFC), has already had to refuse two film permits for Cape Town productions and said, “The ban will not only affect feature films but also tourism promotion agencies often look for aerial shots. South Africa runs the risk of losing production activities to other areas who approve the use of drones.”
In response to the ban, the CFC has been in discussion with the SACAA, the Ministry of Transport, the Department of Trade and Industry as well as the Deputy Mayor of Cape Town and has requested that the SACAA implement their model aircraft policy for use of the drones.
If approved, the policy will require adopting the below guidelines, which are similar to those used in Europe and Australia:
• Flying only under 120m
• No flying within 4.2 nautical miles of an airport
• Flying only in line of sight of the operator (500m)
• No auto pilot flying or night flying
• No flying over public property and roads without permission.
In addition to this, the CFC requested that filmmakers support the initiative by sending letters which express the importance of UAV use in filmmaking and outline how the immediate ban will impact on employment and South Africa’s economy.
UAV companies were also encouraged to have a representative attend a meeting with the CFC and members of the insurance industry to form a lobby group, which would be able to tend to the situation.