A new committee established by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) would develop policies, airworthiness standards and regulations to ensure the management of the unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) sector in the civil aviation sphere by 2015.
The CAA on Tuesday said that there would be continued growing demand for UASs in the civil aviation industry in the future, both in South Africa and internationally, which had prompted it to establish its unmanned aircraft systems coordinating committee (UASCOCOM).
CAA UAS manager Andy Mamba would chair the committee, which was officially launched in Midrand on Tuesday. The rest of the committee consisted of experts in the industry, who were affiliated with organisations such as Denel, the CSIR and the South African Air Force.
CAA CEO and Commissioner for Civil Aviation Captain Colin Jordaan said that South Africa would continue to take a leadership role alongside other advanced nations to improve, and further enhance, the application of civil aviation across the globe.
He added that South Africa was part of a study group, established by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, to look at all aspects of UAS operations, including safety.
He commented that the committee had an enormous task ahead, "but it will succeed in executing its duties".
Jordaan said that the CAA prided itself on being one of the first civil aviation authorities to have established a dedicated UAS section to do all the groundwork.
"We are also enjoying the full support of the industry, which will go a long way in making this a success," added CAA aircraft safety GM Obert Chakarisa.
UASs, which are referred to as aircraft that are not flown by a pilot on board, but that are remotely controlled and navigated, had been predominantly used in the military up to now for intelligence gathering, surveillance, target identification and reconnaissance purposes.
They were now increasingly being used for a number of purposes in the civil aviation industry, such as coastal and marine protection, meteorological missions during thunderstorms and during nuclear radiation monitoring missions.
It could also be used for fire fighting management and disaster monitoring, transportation of cargo, border patrol and law enforcement, game counting and prevention of poaching, pipeline or electrical line monitoring, rebroadcasting of radio information, remote environmental research, oceanography and other scientific missions.