To meet the needs of the rapidly expanding drones market, a new retail and after-sales support, repair and training network has been established through a partnership between technology support company weFix and drone training service provider Drone Racing Africa (DRA).
There has been significant growth in the local industry during the past few years, but a challenge is fast emerging, with a void in the market to service the vast number of drone operators. The connection between sales, training and education, regulatory compliance, repairs and accessory suppliers has been disparate, resulting in an increasing number of drone operators being noncompliant with the law, putting themselves and others at risk.
weFix founder and CEO Alex Fourie says his company and DRA are aligned in terms of drone safety and education, with the partnership introducing convenience and accessibility. In this regard, weFix builds on a national base of 36 stores, which employ 150 technicians servicing more than 650 000 customers [using] Apple devices and cellular phone brands Samsung, LG and Huawei since 2006.
He notes that, once operators start flying their drones, they quickly require repairs and accessories. Items such as propellers, cameras and batteries are repeat-order items that need ongoing repair or backup, says Fourie.
Buying a drone is only one part of the equation for drone operators who want to, for example, film wide-angle photography and videography, sports or footage of extreme nature, he explains. Equally important is the aftermarket accessories availability, such as those to mount cameras, and technology support nationwide in general, says Fourie.
Although South African airspace coordinator the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has published rules for flying drones, the vast majority of drone operators are unaware of where they can fly their drone legally and of the various options for certification to fly there.
To this end, the DRA and weFix partnership, in terms of products and training, aims to bridge the gap between legal and illegal operations, says Fourie, adding that, “once drone enthusiasts have access to the equipment, they most importantly need to fly safe”.
DRA CEO Simon Robinson says, with DRA’s formal drone operating skills and weFix’s history of distributing the DJI brand of drones, technical support and after-sales service, the partnership can assist drone operators in becoming safer and compliant with the rules and regulations.
Through the partnership, Robinson says drone enthusiasts can buy, train, certify, repair and enhance all aspects of their drones and operations through one provider across the country. “The drone marketplace has been needing something like this since it started.”
He explains that it is essential, and lawfully binding, that any new drone buyer understands the rules as set out by the SACAA. However, Fourie says it is often the case that, at the point of sale, there is insufficient information available to the buyer. “The reality is that children as young as eight are flying drones, but, on many occasions, neither they nor their parents are aware of the need for education and safety awareness and certification.”
DRA provides various drone training programmes, from a Junior Drone Racing Course for children as young as eight to those wanting a more in-depth understanding of operating a recreational drone. There is also a Drone Flying Competence Course for children 14 years and older, and a Remote Pilot Licence for 18-year-olds, which will enable them to become qualified commercial drone pilots and earn an income from flying a drone.
“Internationally, whether you are starting out or are an expert pilot, ongoing education, compliance and a proven technology support partner are the key success factors for all involved,” he concludes.