Do­ing Drones Right

SLOW Magazine - - Contents - Text: Olive John­son Im­age © istockphoto.com

Afew years ago, drones were mostly associated with mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions, but the air sur­round­ing th­ese pi­lot­less planes has changed dra­mat­i­cally since they first ap­peared on the pub­lic mar­ket. Drones are now used in a num­ber of in­cred­i­ble ways, and more and more peo­ple are buy­ing them. Few, how­ever, are fully aware of the in­tri­ca­cies of own­ing drones. Tech sup­port, af­ter-mar­ket ac­ces­sories, re­pairs, back­ups, as well as strict laws and reg­u­la­tions are all things to con­sider be­fore tak­ing to the sky.

A drone, or un­manned aerial ve­hi­cle (UAV), is a small air­craft with­out a pi­lot on board that is op­er­ated by a hu­man from a re­mote lo­ca­tion or au­tonomously as per set mode. Th­ese days, drones are used for a num­ber of rea­sons, in­clud­ing: cap­tur­ing live events like con­certs, sports events, and po­lit­i­cal ad­dresses; sur­vey­ing dan­ger­ous or ex­tremely re­mote lo­ca­tions; de­liv­er­ing small items; law en­force­ment; shoot­ing aerial scenes for com­mer­cials or movies; keep­ing an eye on wildlife; and sur­vey­ing agri­cul­tural crops.

Drones are ev­ery­where, and are rapidly climb­ing in sta­tus among the typ­i­cal tech pur­chases and sea­sonal gifts across South Africa. But drone op­er­a­tors and en­thu­si­asts are largely un­aware of the train­ing, ed­u­ca­tion, and reg­u­la­tory com­pli­ance rules and are there­fore fall­ing short of the law, putting them­selves and oth­ers at risk.

South Africa’s lead­ing tech­nol­ogy sup­port com­pany, we­fix, re­cently part­nered with one of the coun­try’s lead­ing youth and adult drone train­ing providers, Drone Rac­ing Africa (DRA), to put to­gether a con­ve­nient, trust­wor­thy, and coun­try­wide re­tail and af­ter­sales sup­port, re­pair, and train­ing net­work which is eas­ily avail­able to thou­sands of drone pi­lots in the coun­try. Founder and CEO of we­fix, Alex Fourie, says, “As two in­dus­try lead­ers, we are aligned in our view of safety and ed­u­ca­tion on drones. Now we bring con­ve­nience and ac­ces­si­bil­ity to the ta­ble na­tion­ally across 36 we­fix stores – just as we have done so suc­cess­fully through our 150 tech­ni­cians ser­vic­ing more than 650,000 cus­tomers to date across Ap­ple de­vices and lead­ing phone brands Sam­sung, LG, and Huawei since 2006.”

Com­ment­ing on the new part­ner­ship, Si­mon Robin­son, CEO of DRA says, “This is great news for the in­dus­try at large, which has pre­vi­ously been known for its di­verse ser­vice providers. Now, to­gether with DRA’S for­mal drone op­er­at­ing skills and we­fix’s ex­pert dis­tri­bu­tion of DJI drones, tech­ni­cal sup­port, and back-up, we can bet­ter up­hold our re­spon­si­bil­ity to put safety first in a way that is ac­ces­si­ble for cus­tomers at a na­tional level. Sim­ply put, drone en­thu­si­asts can buy, train, cer­tify, re­pair, and en­hance all un­der one roof across the coun­try. The drone mar­ket­place has been need­ing some­thing like this since it started.”

Be­fore a drone is in the air, it is im­per­a­tive that pur­chasers know and fully un­der­stand the le­gal­i­ties for own­ing and op­er­at­ing them. While the South African Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity (SACAA) has pub­lished rules around the fly­ing of drones, the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple are un­aware of where they can fly their drone legally and of the var­i­ous op­tions for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to fly. The part­ner­ship’s com­bi­na­tion of prod­uct and train­ing is there­fore es­sen­tial to the in­dus­try, and a ma­jor ben­e­fit for those in the mar­ket for a drone.

Chil­dren as young as eight are fly­ing drones, but on many oc­ca­sions nei­ther they nor their par­ents are aware of the need for ed­u­ca­tion, safety aware­ness, and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Ac­cord­ing to Robin­son, DRA pro­vides the fol­low­ing op­tions: “A Ju­nior Drone Rac­ing Course for chil­dren from eight years, or for those want­ing a more in-depth un­der­stand­ing of op­er­at­ing a recre­ational drone; a Drone Fly­ing Com­pe­tency Course for 14-year-olds and up­wards; and then 18-year-olds can take their RPL (Re­mote Pi­lot Li­cense) to be­come a qual­i­fied com­mer­cial pi­lot, en­abling them to earn an in­come from fly­ing a drone. In­ter­na­tion­ally, whether you are start­ing out or are an ex­pert pi­lot, on­go­ing ed­u­ca­tion, com­pli­ance, and a proven tech­nol­ogy sup­port part­ner are the key suc­cess fac­tors for all in­volved.”

A drone owner does not re­quire an RPL for op­er­at­ing drones for pri­vate use or as a hobby – this is only re­quired for com­mer­cial, cor­po­rate, and non-profit use. But the hobbyist must en­sure that all the reg­u­la­tions are fol­lowed re­gard­ing where they are al­lowed to fly in or­der to avoid putting oth­ers at risk as well as po­ten­tial le­gal ac­tion.

Another con­sid­er­a­tion that drone buy­ers of­ten over­look is the need for re­pairs and ac­ces­sories once they start fly­ing. Pro­pellers, cam­eras, and bat­ter­ies are items that need on­go­ing re­pair. “Buy­ing a DJI Mavic Pro, for ex­am­ple, is only part of the equa­tion if you want to film wide-an­gle, sports, or ex­treme footage. Equally im­por­tant is the af­ter­mar­ket ac­ces­sories that mount the cam­era and the tech­nol­ogy sup­port na­tion­wide. And once drone en­thu­si­asts have ac­cess to the equip­ment, they most im­por­tantly need to fly safely,” Fourie says.

Whether for busi­ness or plea­sure, the drone mar­ket is grow­ing at a rapid pace (from $130 mil­lion in sales in 2015 to an es­ti­mated $1 bil­lion in 2018 ac­cord­ing to Ri­val­drones.com). With years of ex­pe­ri­ence and pro­fes­sion­ally trained spe­cial­ists in the in­dus­try, both of the teams at we­fix and DRA know and un­der­stand the tech­ni­cal­i­ties and com­plex­i­ties that face drone buy­ers, and have gone above and be­yond to make life for new pi­lots eas­ier.

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.we­fix.co.za.

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