Press Release Concerning the Cape Town Fires and Unauthorised Drone Piloting.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 22 April 2021 Media contacts:

Kim James CUAASA ExCo Member:

Sean Reitz CUAASA President:

Sam Keddle CAASA Office Manager:

  • Drone Footage of Cape Town Fire posted on social media filmed by unauthorised drone operator
  • ‘Working on Fire’ Aviation Command and Control Spotter Pilot reported safety concerns
  • Drone hobbyists are urged to not operate drones near disaster areas as this severely threatens the safety of Public Safety Agency personnel

Unauthorised drone activity has been reported near the Cape Town Table Mountain fire which started on 19 April 2021.

Footage seen on social media – including close footage of Public Safety Agency activity and drone footage of the fire itself, was sent to CUAASA on Tuesday. In addition, a ‘Working on Fire’ Command and Control Spotter Pilot who was part of the aerial fire-fighting efforts, has commented on the dangers of drones near their area of operation and at the shock of seeing the social media drone footage with one of their helicopters in it.

“This is a major concern for our safety as pilots. The visibility due to the smoke is minimal, thus spotting a drone at the low levels we operate at would be impossible”. He further added: “We urge the public and drone hobbyists to please stay clear of active fire while manned aircraft are in the vicinity”.

Whether individuals want to follow developments of a disaster situation or simply gain social media fame, they are in fact putting Public Safety Agency personnel in great danger. Over the last few days, there were up to five aerial fire-fighting helicopters operational at any one time, and the person flying that specific drone would not have been able to hear or observe another helicopter approaching from another direction. An unlikely but possible C2 Link loss might have also put the drone into an un-controlled flight directly into the path of the helicopter being filmed.

It needs to again be highlighted that airborne drones pose a substantial risk to manned aircraft; a drone colliding with a tail rotor or being ingested into an engine, could cause a catastrophic accident. It is therefore important to remind drone owners to follow the regulations and specifically not to fly their drone near aerodromes, controlled / restricted airspace, or disaster situations.

CUAASA has reached out to the individual who posted the social media content.

The individual responded apologetically and now understands the risks posed to the nearby aircraft. It was also noted that flights took place in the SANParks Table Mountain National Park, which is a no drone zone. Based on the severity of this case, enforcement of Part 101 of the Civil Aviation Regulations, is being considered. Flying safely and according the SACAA hobby rules is paramount to keeping the skies safe.

See SACAA for hobby rules. It should be noted that legal commercial drone operators will most likely be operating in and around the disaster area now that the fire is reported to have been contained. Commercial drone operators will be conducting aerial post loss assessments for insurance purposes and the like. Commercial drone operators will always have permission from landowners, permission to fly in controlled airspace and radio contact with manned aircraft traffic for safe and legal operation.


We do not own this video and are not sure who needs to be credited. But what we would like to showcase is the hard work being done by these helicopter pilots and to accentuate the need for no drone piloting during these times. 

What are SACAA regulations I should be aware of?

Follow this list Do’s and Don’ts


  1. Fly/operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft, or toy aircraft in a safe manner, at all times.
  2. Remotely Piloted Aircraft or toy aircraft should remain within the visual line of sight at all times.
  3. Fly/operate RPA in daylight and clear weather conditions.
  4. Inspect your aircraft before each flight.


DO NOT, through act or omission, endanger the safety of another aircraft or person therein or any person or property through negligent flying/operation of Remotely Piloted Aircraft, or toy aircraft.

Do not fly/operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft, or toy aircraft 50 m or closer from:

  1. Any person or group of persons (like sports fields, road races, schools, social events, etc.)
  2. Any property without permission from the property owner.

Unless approved by the SACAA, DO NOT fly/operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft or toy aircraft:

  1. Near manned aircraft
  2. 10 km or closer to an aerodrome (airport, helipad, airfield)
  3. Weighing more than 7 kg
  4. In controlled airspace
  5. In restricted airspace
  6. In prohibited airspace

Do not fly/operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft, or toy aircraft higher than 150 ft from the ground, unless approved by the Director of Civil Aviation of the SACAA.


  1. It is the full responsibility of the remote pilot of the RPAS to fly his/her aircraft safely and not endanger safety of another aircraft, any person or property.
  2. The remote pilot must observe all statutory requirements relating to liability, privacy and any other laws enforceable by any other authorities.

Please adhere to the following for the safe operation of RPAS:

  1. Private operations of RPAS shall be conducted:
  2. only in R-VLOS
  3. with a Class 1A or 1B RPA (mass < 7 kg, Impact energy* < 15 kJ)
  4. Do not fly RPA:
  5. Near manned aircraft
  6. 10 km or closer to an aerodrome (airport, helipad or airfield)
  7. In controlled, restricted or prohibited
  8. Do not fly RPA 50m or closer from:
  9. Any person or group of persons (like sport fields, road races, stadiums, schools, social events, etc.)
  10. Public road
  11. Any property without permission from property owner
  12. Only fly RPA in daylight and clear weather conditions