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The Ultimate Guide to BVLOS Drone Approval in South Africa

Publish 18 March 2024

By: Daniel


Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations represent endless potential in the dynamic world of drone technology. Enabling drones to operate beyond the pilot's direct sight opens up many possibilities, from enhancing agricultural practices to revolutionising infrastructure inspections. However, operations like these require meticulous planning, adherence to regulations, and approval from the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).

Key Considerations for BVLOS Approval:

1. Pilot Qualifications and Experience

BVLOS pilots must possess specific licences and undergo specialised training to ensure their competency in managing flights without direct visual contact with the drone. SACAA places great importance on pilot qualifications, emphasising the need for expertise in managing complex scenarios that may arise during BVLOS operations.

2. Drone Capabilities and Airworthiness

SACAA evaluates the technical specifications and safety features of BVLOS drones to ensure these drones comply with strict standards. Drones that are used for BVLOS operations must meet rigorous airworthiness criteria, including powerful communication systems, redundancy features, and fail-safe mechanisms to mitigate potential risks.

3. Operational Procedures and Risk Mitigation

Developing comprehensive flight plans, risk assessments, and emergency procedures is essential in obtaining BVLOS approval. SACAA scrutinises operational procedures to establish the adequacy of measures in mitigating potential hazards and ensuring the safety of airspace integration.

4. Insurance Coverage

Adequate insurance coverage is essential to safeguard against liabilities that may arise from BVLOS operations. SACAA mandates drone operators to obtain third-party insurance policies that sufficiently cover potential risks, thereby ensuring financial protection in the event of accidents or incidents. Third Party Liability Insurance is mandatory even for Visual Line of Sight operations in South Africa however, it’s even more important to BVLOS operations as there is more risk.

5. AutonoSky BVLOS Training Course

Aspiring BVLOS operators can benefit from the training offered by AutonoSky, equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate the complexities of BVLOS operations. With a focus on practical insights, regulatory compliance, and safety protocols, AutonoSky's training course empowers drone pilots to pursue BVLOS approval with confidence and proficiency.

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Companies that currently hold an Unmanned Aircraft System Operator certification (UASOC) need to obtain a BVLOS approval on their Operations Specification certificate before commencing with BVLOS operations. This means that it is not enough for only the pilot to have a BVLOS rating on their license, so here are a few steps for the business to take towards acquiring the BVLOS approvals.

1. Initial Consultation with SACAA:

You can make first contact by calling SACAA and asking for a contact to add BVLOS to your UASOC to gain insights into regulatory requirements and expectations.

2. Submission of Required Documents:

Compile and submit comprehensive documentation, including operational manuals, risk assessments, and technical data of the BVLOS drone which the SACAA inspector/official may require.

3. Demonstration:

You will need to demonstrate to the SACAA that your UASOC, pilot and aircraft can perform a BVLOS operation so they can confidently approve your BVLOS approval request. Lots of careful planning and risk mitigation should be incorporated in a demonstration like this and any future BVLOS flights.

4. Communication with SACAA:

Maintain open communication channels with your inspector/official throughout the evaluation process, promptly addressing any queries or concerns.

5. Addressing Concerns:

Respond proactively to SACAA's feedback, accommodating any requested modifications or enhancements to the BVLOS application until the process is complete. Maintaining contact with your inspector working on your application process will help streamline the process.

Obtaining BVLOS approval from SACAA is a meticulous yet rewarding endeavour that unlocks endless possibilities for drone operators in South Africa. By prioritising pilot competence, technological integrity, and safety protocols, aspiring BVLOS operators can navigate the approval process with diligence and professionalism, paving the way for transformative advancements in drone-based services and applications.

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