danie.e wrote: ↑
Thu Mar 05, 2020 2:02 pm
Very interesting read. I would like to comment from a different perspective in that my field of expertise is from the RC modelling side of "aviation".
During the infant stages of "drone" life in South Africa, many business simply imported and sold to all and sundry with scant regard to the outcome of their sales. Instead of being responsible, the "quick buck" was more attractive and soon drone pilots started doing really dangerous and silly things to such an extent that Authorities had no alternative but to intervene.
During this "initial stage" I wrote quite a lot about this on the model aircraft forums and constantly advocated for the drone industry to be regulated by a similar body as SAMAA with the same structure and regulations pertaining to model aircraft. I tried to convince "dealers" to start educating not only their customer, but themselves as well in an effort to stay off the CAA radar.
It is also necessary to mention that during this phase, as with everything else in life, a few people realized the money making potential and had a big influence in the formation of current legislation to such a point that to enter this sphere of aviation has not only become extremely expensive but vested interests will do everything in their power to retain the status quo. One only need too ask the question as to where the main operators got their "expertise" from during this period to help draw up legislation as the CAA staff had absolutely no clue.
Had my effort (and quite a large number of individuals as well) been heeded, we may have ended with a much less regulated industry, cheaper and with less red tape to enter, yet with sufficient controls to ensure safe operation in the same airspace as "big brother".
My guess is that the drone fraternity in South Africa should put the blame in front of their own door and not general aviation. Model aircraft has been in this country for decades before drones and yet we managed to co-exist without undue interference from authorities. This happened simply because the participants made an effort to self regulate and not become a nuisance to GA. It is in this regard that the drone fraternity lost the plot and now they sit with rules and regulations that are making life very difficult for themselves. (Just maybe, if they opened their ears to the "ou toppies" their plight would have been different)
I actually rather like what you had to state here, thanks for sharing.
We had actually met in the past once or twice at some fly-inns when I was very active with RC helis. Also, I do remember reading some of your stuff a few years back.
I also agree with you at large. It is the past and massively the current drone "operators" fault for the red tape situation we are in currently based on how people are "taking to the sky's."
Although I do not think SAMAA would have been able to manage this, there is a huge amount of experience and history there that could have included a lot of value at the table when creating the way things could run.
Side note, not sure if you saw the article shared earlier this week about how the FAA want to regulate all RC craft in the states by forcing them to be connected to the internet at all times during flight...
This is such a complex thing to get right and coming from so many various angles of experience that I believe the middle point was missed long ago by everyone involved.
We have been and are at the mercy of individuals that are making decisions based on financial interests versus the innovation of technology and what it could achieve to advance the industry or the passion for this kind of aviation.
For example, drone flight schools certainly helped push things forward. But only until their interests are met and then they sold a remarkably delightful picture to many people that thought this was their way in. I still regularly get people informing me because they possess a license to operate a drone they can operate legally
I do believe the brunt of frustrations come from "newbies" into the hobby or profession with regards to how limiting things are for them.
But you cannot blame them, here is why:
Like Danie, I come from the RC side of things and was a licensed RC heli pilot. If you have ever flown one you would know that you don't just rock up and can start flying. It did not come over night as it endured many years of building, testing, learning to fly, gaining skills and eventually passing the proficiency tests. I won't mention the money lost in learning (read as crashing).
But what was invaluable was the ability to go to an RC field and spend time learning from people what have done it for many more years than I have. They possess better equipment and took the time to teach you some theory behind flying, complex manoeuvres and building methods that increase the safety of your RC craft and flying as a whole, etc. All the experts you ever met in this field are extremely passionate.
Thats where RC and manned aviation share a lot of commonality. You don't just rock up and fly an airplane. It undergoes many many hours of practice, courses focused on specific areas of aviation designed to improve safety and security. A new pilot also invests a lot of time at the learning from incredibly passionate and utterly professional flight instructors. These instructors take a great deal of time nurturing and guiding a new pilot, so they can learn the proficiencies needed to safely operate and take their passion further or develop into a career.
Drones, and I am generalising to the consumer driven photography/film drones, do not offer either of these above scenarios. You buy it, you charge it and within a few minutes you "master" flying it.
When it comes to AgDrones, delivery drones, surveying or many more complex operations which I think we can all agree it's not something you just rock up and do instantly. These services are driven through specialised companies which usually come out of legacy operators or highly specialised service providers looking to innovate their business through drones.
The largest offenders are the first category of drones I mentioned. From their perspective there is no need for a deep involvement in aviation side of things. Aviation as a whole or flying the drone is not something they are passionate about, but rather the bi-product of that flight is what they are after and most experienced in.
To be perfectly blunt, flying a drone is boring as hell, there is nothing that would tickle the fancy of an aviation nut. Everything about a drone is developed to keep it stable and steady in the air. Its not like flying an RC plane or heli that actually require some understand of flight principles and a significant degree of safety consideration.
Its hard to see a way forward where everyone is satisfied and business is not stifled.
I have started another thread to bounce around some ideas and suggestions of how things could be done different. Please take a moment and add some thoughts, it's an ideas bed and not a debate area so please feel free to share no matter how ridiculous it might sound or implausible it may be. (viewtopic.php?f=286&t=228077
What has me quite frustrated at this time remain how so many people are taking the micky out of the situation. As an individual that leaves me feeling rather helpless in this situation and the CAA aren't doing anything to police the many thousands of offenders. You cant as an individual enter this game and if you did its 100's of thousands of rands and a minimum of 1.5 years, even with a deep understanding of aviation, before you gain final approvals to operate.
Personally I am content to accept the lay of the land as it is, as long is the regulators are carry out their job and policing it as such!
Otherwise its just another bunch of rules and laws we have in SA that people arent going to follow anyways, rendering it useless, expensive and a waste of tax money.
If I may include one last thing; despite the frustrations voiced and followed here. I see that even in manned aviation there are some serious challenges with CAA and regulators as well.
So I don't think the drone fraternity needs to fly off the handles here as we arent alone in sharing frustrations with the regulators.