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Getting your Drone License, Insurance & the laws explained

Posted by Action Gear on

By David Davies

Over the next 10 years drones will become part of our everyday lives. From production, surveying, security and animal stock taking. There are certain laws setup by the CAA for Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAS) You’ll either be operating under Hobby laws (Private use) or commercial laws.

Private use or Hobby laws can be termed as follows by the CAA: For private operation, RPAS may only be used for an individuals personal and private purposes where there is no commercial outcome, interest or gain.

Hobby laws/Private use Flight rules are as follows:

  • Aerodromes – Not allowed to fly 10km within airport, Helipad or Airstrip.
  • Weather Conditions – Operate RPAS in daylight and clear weather conditions.
  • Intoxication – Do not operate RPAS while intoxicated.
  • Class of RPA – Class 1A or 1B (Mass <7KG)
  • RPA Vicinity – Do not operate within 50m or closer to any person, property or public road.
(Essentially these are no-fly zones)

    Rules of Flight for private/hobby use: Restricted Visual Line-of-sight (R-VLOS) which means an operation within 500m of the remote pilot and below the height of the highest obstacle within 300m of the RPA, in which the remote pliot maintains direct unaided visual contact with the RPA to manage its flight and meet separation and collision avoidance responsibilities. 

    NOTE: Insurance companies will only insure your drone inflight if you have your RPL! For more information, pricing and quotes on South African drone insurance please fill in the form at


    Operating commercially & the Regulations. 

    Note: Getting your Remote Pilots License (RPL) does not entitle you to operate commercially just yet. It's the first step forward in developing a licensed drone pilot with the right knowledge, flight skills and most importantly understanding the safety elements involved when flying within manned airspace. 

    The South African African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) views any drone flying in the sky as a aircraft and must abide by the same law as manned aircraft. As a commercial pilot, a commercial drone pilot must also go through their own certification and exams. The first step would be getting your Remote Pilots License (RPL), second would be your Air Service License (ASL) from the department of transport and then your Remote Operators Certificate (ROC) from the SACAA. Only once you have these certificates can you operate commercially. 

    For anyone even considering commercial drone work or needing inflight drone insurance your RPL is a must have! If you a commercial business we also suggest you sign up for a demo of our DJI FlightHub program.

    This allows you to monitor each pilot and drone from a central base. FlightHub will allow for safer flight operations which will ultimately be viewed positively by the SACAA. Software such as flightHub can facilitate a quicker ROC approval from the CAA. Contact us for more information and a demo. 

    Another concern by the SACAA is redundancy and safety measures taken by ROC holders or pilots in command. Parachute systems are crucial if you intend to abide by SACAA drone law & BVLOS regulations. 

    Contact us for more information.  

    New products like DJI AeroScope will make it easier for aviation authorities to track drone users not abiding by the rules & regulations set out by the South African Civil Aviation authorities. 


    Action Gear South Africa is proud to announce our partnership with  RPAS Training academy the only CAA certified drone schools in South Africa. Offering part time courses in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town. These are certainly the only drone school to get your certified RPL as quick as possible! 

    If purchased directly through Action Gear we can offer you 10-20% off your RPL course. Please click here for the product page. For more information please phone us on 011 781 1323 or email to show interest.

    To qualify for the Action Gear discount. Payment would be made to us using the product page portal. You may also pay using Discovery Miles or eBucks.

    Check out our specialist drone partner for custom solutions and commercial options. 


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    • Despite recent comment about Lion Head being restricted area I have the following from CT pilot: “Lions Head is a great hike and actually a registered SAMAA site for RC flying. The flying site is located between lions head and signal hill.” Can anyone comment?

      Linda on
    • Hi Jan,

      The first step required to operate commercially is to obtain your RPL license, appropriate to the kind of drone you wish to fy (fixed-wing/multi-rotor). Once you have optained this license, you can now insure your drone. You are then faced with two options:

      1. To start your own operation, which will require an Air Service Licence and Remote Operating Certificate – which can be a very lengthy, complex, and expensive process. This is required to operate a drone business, and your operating Certificate will set out exactly the scope of how you are allowed to operate – e.g. film production, real estate, land surveying, etc.

      2. The second, but easier method is to operate under an existing certificate, i.e. to work for an existing drone business. Far cheaper, easier and faster than the months of paperwork above. See for a list of ROC holders.

      Hope that helps.

      Simon @ Action Gear on
    • Hi Jayden,

      As you in your personal capacity are not operating for any “commercial outcome, interest or gain,”; as long as you receive no compensation, or reward for your work, and provided that you follow the basic rules for hobbyist pilots, you would not fall within the requirements for commercial drone pilots.

      Simon @ Action Gear on
    • Hi Simon,

      The CAA websites states the following regarding the distinction between private and commercial use:

      For private use –

      (a) The RPAS may only be used for an individual’s personal and private purposes where there is no commercial outcome, interest or gain;

      (b) The pilot must observe all statutory requirements relating to liability, privacy and any other laws enforceable by any other authorities.

      For all other use –

      (a) an RPA must be registered and may only be operated in terms of Part 101 of the South African Civil Aviation Regulations.

      As you are not gaining commercially from the footage shot by posting it on YouTube, no RPL would be needed, provided all other laws and rules are observed and obeyed. However, should you receive an offer from someone to purchase your footage, and you sold it, this would fall foul of the law.

      Simon @ Action Gear on
    • Hi there, quick question.

      Permission has been granted for a commercial drone company to operate on a dam in a Nature reserve to capture footage of sailing.

      If I am a hobby-est and I wish to capture footage of similar sailing boats ( on different days to when the commercial drone company is there and assuming i gain the same permission from the land owners), assimilate and edit the footage and post videos on youtube, to an audiance interested in sailing, but where there is no monetry gain or exchange from either party takes place, would this still require an RPL or would it be legal for me to do this under the hobby definition?

      Any assistance would be greatly appreciated!

      Simon on

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