drone Photography

for South Africa

Aerial Photography

In the past two years enquiries for drone footage and what some call ‘aerial photography’ has surged. And massively so. To save you a lot of time reading, currently Baithe Photography does not offer drone footage. If, however you would like to know why, then carry on reading – and also educate yourself regarding the current South African laws around it.

Hugely important note: anything that is written here is based on my research and therefore you would do well to do the research yourself if you are thinking of 1) buying a drone, 2) using a drone, 3) hiring someone to fly a drone. Fines and prison sentences have been and will continue to be handed out to those who do not comply.

Commercial Drone Photography

The first thing you need to know is that there is a marked difference between flying a drone as a hobbyist, and flying it for commercial gain. The second comes with far stricter rules, and will cost you a lot more money. A hobbyist can “get away” with learning on their own, and ideally testing their skills on some far flung farm out in the Karoo.

Those aiming to “go commercial” will need an RPL (Remote Pilots License) – which will set you back about R16,000 to R25,000 depending. Secondly, you need a huge document drawn up by lawyers called an ROC (Remote Operator Certificate) that sets out all manner of legal things so you are allowed to fly. Apparently it is a manual that is as thick as those old Yellow Pages books (likely an exaggeration) which I’d imagine is largely to protect you in case something goes horribly wrong. This is (and this is based on the last quote I got) going to set you back about R200,000. Yes, you read that correctly, five “zeros”. I will update this if things change.


South African Regulations

The second reason you need to be wary of flying a drone is that there are so, so many things preventing you from flying someplace you would want to. Let’s take Cape Town as an example. You may not fly within 15km of any airport. Cape Town Airport, Ysterplaat, Stellenbosch Airport (surprise, yes, there is one there!), and any others. So that is Milnerton, Mowbray, the CBD, Pinelands and many other areas immediately off the books. Then, any helipad you need to do a similar thing. Where do you find helipads…? Hospitals, government buildings, rich people’s playgrounds etc.

Added to this, you may not fly over any nature reserve. Cape Point, West Coast National Park, the whole of Table Mountain. So, you think “I want to fly over that beautiful scene”, well unfortunately it is likely to be protected. I can carry on, but prisons, power plants, national key points etc are all banned. And rightly so. See some more evidence here. The idea being, get ready to drive an hour out of the city, you will find it really hard to fly a drone in them. And I am glad, the thought of a drone pilot flying their rotating blades into someone’s eyeball is not pleasant.

People needed to fly the drone

Probably the biggest barrier to me, and hopefully all those who want to do things legally, is the sheer manpower in flying drones ethically. You need one person to man a two-way radio – they can then talk to a potential helicopter pilot coming into your airspace. You need someone to fly the drone – no surprises there. You need a third person to operate the camera on the drone – though I can see how in many instances this could be avoided. And you need a fourth person standing by to do medical aid, and having a fire extinguisher. That is a lot of people and therefore a lot of time, money, and effort! I am 99% sure most commercial operators don’t do all of these but hey, I am not there and who knows, perhaps they are.


In conclusion

Currently there are tonnes of reasons not to get into drone photography in South Africa. For other countries it may be easier – Uganda, Kenya, Mauritius… I really don’t know offhand, and it may change, too – but here it’s not worth it. Yet.

If and when it changes we shall offer it as so many clients request it. So, sadly we cannot help. But, if you are desperate, please ensure you book with someone legally allowed to fly. They need both the RPL and the ROC. Plus, probably a handful of other things I have not the time to mention here.



Answers to Typically Asked Questions

Save us both some time by reading through these typical questions. You will thank us later when you’ve managed to prepare your property better thanks to our advice.


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