Police minister Bheki Cele has published draft regulations around the use of ‘remotely piloted aircraft systems’ – more colloquially known as drones – in South Africa.
While South Africa’s private security groups have used drones for several years for tasks such as estate monitoring and anti-poaching activities, drone licences were given on a cases-by-cases basis, and until now there were no rules for drone usage by the private sector as a whole.
The draft regulations will make it easier for private security companies in South Africa to use drones in their operations – however, the proposed rules also make it clear that the use of remotely piloted aircraft will be heavily monitored and controlled to ensure that their usage is not abused or unlawful.
Specific issues that the draft regulations cover include:
- The process of applying for drone usage, including the information of the security companies and who will be piloting the aircraft;
- Ensuring the people piloting the drones have the correct licences and qualifications;
- Regular assessments and a register of people authorised to fly drones at these companies;
- Determining the conditions around when private security companies may operate drones and advertise their services.
Drones in your estate and complex
Private security companies in South Africa have already used drones for anti-crime initiatives for several years, particularly in up-market complexes and estates where it can be difficult to track criminals on the ground.
Charnel Hattingh, head of marketing and communications at Fidelity Services Group, said that even in a secured complex, there is always a risk of burglaries and theft from inside and outside the complex and this is why many estates are now combining guarding options and electrified barriers with more high tech solutions like drones.
“We believe drones and the deployment of a mobile drone team, not only act as a highly effective visible deterrent to criminals, but also assist to immediately track down and locate criminal elements once an outer perimeter on an estate has been breached, or in any scenario where suspects are at large on a security estate.”
She said the deployment of drones is ideally suited to security estates and will increase proactive crime prevention and the ability to plan crime prevention operations. It will also facilitate a more rapid response to live criminal incidents and scenes.
“These high tech innovations definitely represent the future face of security, but as stressed earlier, they work best if they are combined with an integrated security offering.”
In June, Cele confirmed that the South African Police Service (SAPS) is in the process of procuring new drones to be used in anti-crime and monitoring operations – particularly in rural areas.
Cele said a total of 166 drones will be purchased in three phases, with the technology set to be introduced across its operations. “The current proposed model for drone deployment in phases one, two and three will include 43 localities,” the minister said.
Cele said that the drones are specifically being procured for use in:
- Provincial Operational Command Centres;
- District Operational Command Centres;
- The Safer City Projects;
- Satellite drone units serving various police stations;
- The utilisation of drones in rural safety plans.
While the SAPS has already conducted a number of pilot programmes in areas such as Johannesburg, this marks the first time that drones will be used countrywide en masse as part of the national policing strategy.