Like any technology, such as mobile devices, laptops, cameras and many others, people are inclined to adopt and adapt to using the latest technology, as we are always looking for the new technology or inventions. Drones are no different. The ownership and use of drones have increased in recent years, due to the impeccable use and benefits for both recreational and commercial use.
The undeniable benefits of drones in tracking animals and wildlife, for delivery purposes, emergency rescues, navigation, historical conservation, site surveying and marketing has necessitated many businesses to own this technology.
Why are drones relevant today?
Originally developed for the military and the aerospace industries, drones are now more relevant for many uses because of their affordability, ease of use, levels of safety and efficiency they bring.
Many African countries including Zimbabwe have also joined the world of drones particularly using them to take aerial photographs, for weddings, production filming, and political campaigns.
Drawing from the growing demand for drones, there is a need to raise awareness on the legal requirements for use and ownership of drones. Out of lack of awareness many people are currently using drones without regulatory approval.
What are the specific regulations for drones in Zimbabwe?
Zimbabwe has its drone regulations referred to as the Civil Aviation (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) Regulations, 20181. The regulations should therefore be read together with the Civil Aviation Act.2
What is the relevant authority to issue a license?
Thus the regulatory authority of drone activities in the airspace is the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ).
One also has to be licensed which is obtainable at a prescribed fee and the license is renewable at the turn of two years at a prescribed fee as well.
What are the requirements for a drone license?
It is illegal to fly a drone without being licensed by the CAAZ to do so. Thus a drone operator has to be thoroughly familiar with the regulations to ensure they are fully compliant.
Only persons over eighteen (18) years of age are legally allowed to use drones.
The drone also has to be assessed for airworthiness and the cost of each assessment is determined by the size of the drone.
All drone operators must be qualified through training.
What to observe when flying a drone?
There are some restrictions to fly drone technology as follows;
Drone Operators cannot control a drone from two different stations.
A drone must only be flown when the weather is conducive such that the drone is visible to others.
Drone Operators are not allowed to land or let a drone take off from a road, fly along a road or within 30 metres from a road. Also, no drone should tow another drone.
Furthermore, flying a drone next to or above a prison, a crime scene, court of law, police station, national key point or strategic installation is not allowed.
Drones cannot be flown in controlled airspace and are not allowed to drop off stuff or carry dangerous goods.
Drone Operators are not allowed to use drugs or alcohol within eight (8) hours of flying a drone, or while flying it.
Neither should a drone be flown in formation or a swam. Drone Operators should also not do stunts/tricks in the air or perform an aerial or aerobatic roll in an emergency to avoid the collision.
It is not legal to fly a drone above 400feet (122metres) above the surface of the earth or within a radius of three nautical miles from an airport.
Every licensed drone operator must hold a third party insurance cover for the operations at all times.
A drone can only be operated at night with the approval and authorization of the regulatory body and after meeting the prescribed requirements.
The regulations do not distinguish between drone flights for recreational and commercial purposes.
Operating a drone without a license and breaching the regulations will attract criminal prosecution.
For foreigners who intend to bring a drone into the country, they should apply to the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe at least 30 days before entry. After obtaining approval from the CAAZ, they should get a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA).
From observation and analysis of the regulations, it is clear that individuals have to overcome some regulatory hurdles before they can fly drone or drones in Zimbabwe. What is essential is to fulfill the requirements to the satisfaction of the authority to get a license and also comply with the all the licence conditions to avoid criminal prosecution.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide legal advice. Please contact an appropriate authority to determine what, if any, legal requirements or restrictions apply to the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems in your area.