With the rise of drones the biggest challenge that has emerged is how to secure the airspace drones share with aircraft, helicopters and airlines.
Since the dawn of aviation airspace has been segregated for safety and has worked pretty well over the history of aviation with controlled airspace as well as uncontrolled airspace where pilots talk to each other on Airband radios to control themselves and maintains operation from each other visually to ensure maximum airspace safety. Testament to this is the low percentage of air to air collisions globally, but they do happen.

Now enter the dawn of the drone, with no pilot on board and in most cases likely 98% of the time there is NO Airband radio being used by the drone flyer, plus the drone is being flown in traditional airspace. The drone flyer has zero understanding of aviation and airspace let alone how to use airspace safety.
The drone pilot can’t see other aircraft from then drone so can’t apply the “see and be seen” approach to aviation airspace separation and safety.
The drone pilot does not have an Airband radio so can’t warn other airspace users of what they are doing and where they are.

This situation is what has literally freaked out the FAA and Civil Aviation Authorities around the world. How to ensure airspace safety for all airspace users?

The biggest differences with drone’s vs traditional aircraft airspace use they were faced with were:
1.    Drone flyers are not qualified or trained.
2.    Drone flyers have zero understanding of aviation, air law or air safety.
3.    Aircraft have transponders, so they can be seen by air traffic control, drones don’t and pose a hidden threat to aircraft.
4.    The explosion in the number of drones sold almost outnumber named aircraft which can potentially lead to higher risks of airborne collisions.
5.    Drones are nearly impossible for other airspace users to see before they are right on them. Traditional aircraft spot each other, communicate on radio and then make plans to fly around the other to maintain separation, this is not possible with drones.
6.    A drone can take down an airliner easily and thus can be used by terrorists as well as ignorant drone flyers to cause massive loss of life.

This then lead to the new drone laws being brought out globally for drones, UAV and RPAS (yes all the fancy names mean the same thing) South Africa was the 1st in the world to bring out these drone laws for better or worse. Some may say South African Part 101 drone laws are over kill, but they are responsibly written. Granted poorly executed though.

We won’t get into the nitty gritty of CAA Part 101 here as we have already done so in previous articles but we will focus on ways to increase airspace safety.

One of the 1st steps in improving airspace safety for drones is to do your RPL (remote pilots license) which is a commercial drone pilots rating issued by a CAA approved Drone Training school (ATO) here drone pilots are taught about airspace and flight planning. Granted these courses are just entry level and a lot more work is required by students to better understand things. NOTE the RPL does not mean you can work legally and sell your services. To do this you require a ROC and CAA approval which can take 2-3 years, as well as a RLA for each drone to be flown. The RPL is the 1st steps in understanding drone based aviation.

Flying drones with an Airband radio allows you to hear where other aircraft are as well as tell others where you are. To operate an Airband radio in South Africa you are required to have in your possession a Restricted Airband radio license which is generally done during your RPL course.
Your Airband radio also needs to be registered and licensed by ICASA as well sad to say.
But having an Airband radio alone does not make you safe. You need to understand Airband radio lingo, so you can speak Airband language and understand the same.
We suggest taking your radio to an airfield and listening to the chatter and identifying where aircraft are by what they say and visually identifying the aircraft. This is the best way to learn practically.

Understanding aviation airspace before you fly so you know if you are flying legally is critical.
Using the DJI ap is NOT going to achieve this as they have maybe 10% of airspace and airfields info in South Africa. Educate yourself about airspace and you will see AP’s is not flying safe. Most Aps are made in the USA and use USA drone law which is different o South Africa done laws
What we suggest is download the latest airspace overlay for Google Maps from the ATNS site (https://www.atns.co.za/rsakmz.php)

The use of drone-based aircraft transponders and ADSB goes a long way to making drone flights safer as it enables other aircraft to see your drone as well as allows Air Traffic Controllers to see you on radar. Purple Turtle aviation is the Africa reseller for Uavionix which a custom maker of small light weight is drone based transponders designed to be installed on small drones for added safety.
To find out more visit our site UAVIONIX

In conclusion drones are here to stay and as guests in aircraft airspace drones should use and approach airspace with respect since they are the house guest after all.
Coming into airspace with arrogance (which is filled with ignorance sadly) will not help things and make aviation even more anti drones. Its up to drone users to show aviation they can respect airspace and airspace safety before things will get better.
Until then airspace and drone use will be over regulated. We suggest that drone users work with aviation in this as kicking against it will not result in changes happening for the positive for drone users.

UAV Drone Services Powered by Purple Turtle Aviation based out of Port Elizabeth, South Africa is a Civil aviation licensed drone operator under CAA Part 101 and as such carry’s public liability insurance on all drone flights, an insurance that’s not possible for illegal operators. Purple Turtle Aviation also ahs over 10 years experience in general aviation arena as well.

Contact Purple Turtle Aviation UAV and drone services to find out how we can help you with your drone based needs.

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