A couple of years ago, the OppiKoppi festival started tinkering with the idea of beer delivery by drone. What a time to be alive!
Today, the advancements and innovation in technology have allowed companies such as Amazon to utilize drones in a number of new and exciting ways. It’s not just a run-of-the-mill retail delivery service anymore. You don’t even need a viable address - only the location sent via your smartphone.
Sure, a drone delivering that DVD boxset you ordered might crash into your house and catch fire, but in most cases it’s a risk worth taking.
Think of all the good that the technology could do in the event of an emergency, in hard-to-access locations. In Rwanda, for example, drones can circumvent all the rough terrain to deliver blood samples to hospitals.
Of course, there are many other uses for drones. South Africa is slowly beginning to embrace this technology, and as recently as this week, it has been suggested that the City of Cape Town may become the first municipality in the country to utilize drone technology in the fight against crime. A number of private security estates around South Africa are already using drones to patrol their perimeters, and of course, following the recent mayhem in Johannesburg CBD, ABSA has reached advanced discussions around the implementation of drone technology to fight crime in the area.
Private drone enthusiasts, though, still face a number of problems. Depending on whether you’d like to get one for commercial or personal purposes, you may have to acquire a couple of licenses first. And then, of course, this kind of high-tech gadgetry can come at a hefty price.
Somewhere in the world, right now, there’s a drone on autopilot.
The owner will never see it again.
So! Expensive machines are worth insuring, but it gets a little tricky.
Most insurance companies in South Africa want nothing to do with you and your drone, and many that do will make you jump through hoops in order to get it insured. And even then, the cover is limited. Why is that?
The fact that many hobbyists aren’t aware of the rules and regulations surrounding the use of a drone in South Africa could play a large role. These are set by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) and include, but are by no means limited to:
Of course, some hobbyists disregard these laws and run the risk of crashing their drone into a helicopter or an airplane.
According to the SACAA, offences could even lead to a 10-year prison sentence. Or, best-case scenario, fines of up R50 000.
So, we have drone operators flouting rules. They're going around crashing their drones into other people’s things. Combined with the remote nature of the technology, this all makes a drone one huge risk to insure. Most insurance companies will simply turn you down if your drone isn’t officially registered – which is also incredibly difficult to do.
According to Rocketmine’s State Of The Drone Report from last year, only about 663 drones in SA are registered.
Another huge factor is getting your hands on a Remote Pilot Licence.
Drones that are being used for commercial purposes – anything related to business – need to be operated by a pilot with a Remote Pilot Licence (RPL).
The company itself needs to own a Remote Operating Certificate (ROC).
Obtaining an RPL requires you to complete a 7-day course at a cost of between R15 000 and R25 000. This means that you are personally licensed to fly a drone. However, if you wish to offer any services to others in a commercial capacity, you need to have an ROC too.
The application for an ROC can take up to 15 months and, according to Approved Drone Pilots South Africa, the costs can easily sore well over R100 000.
Ridiculous, right? But as the situation currently stands, there’s almost no way around it.
Certain insurance companies will only insure registered drones that are operated by licensed drone pilots. Many others will cover your drone in the event of something such as theft, but not for anything that happens while in the air. There are just too many ways in which a drone can sustain or cause damage. Risk factors include a collision with third party property, collision with a person or an animal causing injury and death, etc.
With the massive growth in the drone industry over the years, however, insurers are aiming to make the process a little easier.
Drone Covered, for one, with products underwritten by Mutual and Federal, offers the first specialist drone insurance available to non-commercial drone pilots in South Africa. This includes hull, loss and theft cover, as well as third party and liability cover.
Not only is there no waiting period, but once you've completed a short online drone proficiency certificate, as well as 2-hour proficiency practical with thier accredited drone training partner (Drone Racing Africa), you'll be rewarded with increased liability cover and reduced excess.
Insurers are finally beginning to come around.
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