Doing Drones Right
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.