Training organisation Drone Safety Legal (DSL) – a subsidiary of drone services group Delta Drone International – has opened enrolments for its new South African Civil Aviation Authority- (SACAA-) accredited remote pilot licence (RPL) courses, which are being offered in partnership with the University of Pretoria (UP).
Currently, three specialised courses are on offer: Introduction to Drones and Sustainable Mining; Introduction to Drone Inspections in Civil Engineering; and Introduction to Drones and Precision Agriculture. All the courses proudly provide a SACAA-issued RPL drone licence and will commence in May.
The courses are a first of its kind in Africa and they include a detailed focus on the application of drone technology.
“The practical experience of DSL, combined with UP’s academic excellence in these sectors, will provide delegates with a holistic course, from theory to practice. We wanted to leverage UP faculty’s knowledge and expertise,” says DSL GM Refilwe Ledwaba.
She tells Engineering News that delegates attending the courses will learn from the experienced faculty members, who share first-hand knowledge in the mining, civil engineering and agriculture sectors.
For example, course material covering drone inspections in civil engineering will be presented by the UP Department of Civil Engineering, whereas precision mining will be presented by the UP Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, and sustainable mining will be presented by the UP Department of Mining Engineering.
“With our combined experience, we aim to bridge the gap between the technical qualification and application. Our candidates will walk away with a specialised accreditation that they can take into the real world,” Ledwaba says.
The preliminary work behind the formation of the partnership started in 2018, with the engagement between DSL and UP officially starting at the beginning of last year for the development of the courses.
Ledwaba explains that the partnership was born as a result of a gap that was identified in the industry, as students or delegates were trained in the technical and theoretical aspects of the drones industry and not necessarily in the practical application thereof.
In filling this gap, the courses are now some of the only learning offerings in Africa that offer a blended programme geared at drone technology, integrated with strategic business objectives and practical implementation.
“This is a game-changing educational package, which will redefine the role of technology, particularly drones, in the future of both study and work,” Ledwaba says.
The licence for using the technology in any of the specialised applications, either the agriculture, mining or civil engineering industries, will create new livelihoods, she adds.
She says those who complete the courses will have an increased awareness of how to integrate drone technology and expertise into various industries to simplify systems, reduce costs and improve production, which will ensure their futures and the future security of the South African economy as global technology trends advance.
Drones Going Forward
“As the global drone industry is expected to grow by 51.1% over the next eight years, the demand for skilled pilots or drone professionals is increasing. This creates a new pathway into aviation and other sectors,” Ledwaba explains.
Since drones are primarily used as data collection tools in a variety of industries, knowledge of those industries is key if one is to maximise drones’ utility and effectiveness going forward, she adds.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that drone professionals who have specialised knowledge and understanding of specific industries, and their respective needs and challenges, are in demand, as opposed to generalist drone operators.
“Knowledge of those industries will be critical and required for future drone professionals.”
As it currently stands, education in drone operation does not fit within the typical framework of most university faculties and departments.
“Therefore, the educational and professional development of those who will work in the drone industry of the future needs to include the establishment of original coursework dedicated to drones and application,” she says.
As resource scarcity and increased demand begin to create pressure points in some of South Africa’s largest economic sectors, the use of technology, such as drones, is becoming increasingly essential as a way of reducing costs while improving efficiency and safety.
Ledwaba says while drones are used extensively in mining, there is now a rapid increase in the adoption of the technology in agriculture and civil engineering as well.
The increasing need for the services drone professionals and drone technology can provide is creating a change in the way these industries are being structured.
Ledwaba acknowledges that such a change can instil fear and uncertainty, but that this can be overcome if it is regarded as an extension of current skills sets, merged with existing abilities to reforge the future.
“Bridging the divide between technology and livelihoods is critical. “It can’t be a zero-sum game, where robots take over the world and our jobs become null and void.”