This page was added to our site to provide guidance to those wishing to better understand the process of obtaining the RPAS Operating Certificate (ROC) from the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA). The contents of this page, inclusive of downloads, should only be considered as guidance and we do not accept responsibility for any person/company claiming this information as the legal standard for the ROC process.
These guidance notes do NOT supersede or replace the SACAA published requirements and the reader is advised to ensure compliance to the Regulations and Technical Standards of the SACAA pertaining to RPAS at all times.
The notes provided here are based on our experience of more than 4 years working in the RPAS industry and with our colleagues at the SACAA.
General Advice and Tips
At the time of writing, you can expect the Commercial ROC process to complete in approximately 6-9 months. The main reason for it taking so long is as a result of the immense numbers of applications received by the SACAA and the time taken to evaluate each application.
An operations manual on its own can take up to 10 weeks to properly evaluate.
Quality of Applications
We cannot highlight this fact enough.
Make a serious effort to understand everything properly before you submit paperwork/manuals to the SACAA or Licensing Council. With good quality documentation, you will assist these entities and overall, the whole process will go quicker.
The lower the quality of documentation, the more comebacks you will receive, lengthening the period of time even more.
Before you commence the process, there are some things that you can do to make your own application easier and quicker. Here are some ideas:
There are multiple expenses to various entities. Here are some items to consider before you embark on this journey:
Have a look at SACAA Civil Aviation Regulation (CAR) Part 187. Click here to access the online set of regulations to determine your own budget.
Air Service License
Depending on whether you want to do this yourself or make use of a good consultant, the costs will vary significantly. Consultants will generally charge upwards of ZAR 20 000 to assist you with the whole process. Considering the complexity of the application and the fact that you don't need delays, it might be worth it.
Alternatively, if you wish to go it alone, you shouldn't pay much more than a few thousand or less which includes printing, certifying and application fees.
Remember to budget for items such as:
The cost of these companies vary tremendously and you would do well to conduct proper research before contracting a consultancy.
Normally a consultant would charge you to assist in drafting the operations manual, safety case development and for some general advice when you need it on a per hour basis such as completing the SACAA forms etc.
A tip here would be to talk to other ROC holders or applicants to get a fair idea of the costs involved since they can be vastly different according to a lot of factors such as the complexity of your operation or size of it.
In short, prepare to pay in the vicinity of somewhere between ZAR 40 000 - ZAR 60 000 for a complete package meaning assistance from day one through to conclusion when you receive your ROC.
Aviation Training Courses
For the RPAS Pilot's license you can expect to pay anywhere from ZAR 10 000 to ZAR 20 000 depending on the school you choose and the services you require. Use the internet or contact others who have already done their training to find the best prices.
For other courses such as Safety Management, Quality Management, Aviation Security etc. the best advice is to search for reputable, approved providers in your area. There are many out there in South Africa with prices varying greatly.
On last count, you should prepare to fork out a few thousand for each course but compare and get quotes from more than one company and don't just look at price, consider the quality of training also by speaking to others who have attended at the same school.
A final tip to those getting to the end of their ROC processes is to consider commissioning a "Dummy Audit" of your ROC prior to the SACAA walking in and auditing your for the first time, especially if you don't have a lot of aviation experience and have not been part of such audits.
This process could greatly enhance your understanding of the items that SACAA would look for during their audit and also, might detect shortcomings in your ROC to be rectified prior to the SACAA conducting their first audit.
Be mindful of who you get to do this since again, quality of work and cost will be quite different between various service providers.
A tip here would be to get a Company with good experience in this field that has performed a lot of audits and can add value to the whole process.
Air Service License Application
To enable you to obtain a Commercial ROC (meaning you can charge money for drone flights), you will need to apply and obtain an Air Service License. It is a separate process from the ROC and is handled by the Department of Transport's Air Service Licensing Council. The ROC is processed by the SACAA. However, the Air Service License is a requirement to get the commercial ROC.
Unlike the SACAA requirements, the Air Service Licensing Council only requires four nominated post holders:
Tip: This process can be a bit daunting & we recommend using a suitably experienced consultant to assist you. Remember, this process can take up to 6 months to complete so be patient. Also, you need the air service license to allow you to move onto the next phase of the SACAA ROC process. You are welcome to Contact Us for assistance or more information on this process.
RPAS Letter of Approval (RLA) Process
For this process, it is important to understand the purpose of it.
Remember, drones that you buy from your local hobby shop has not been built to international certified/approved aviation construction and design standards. They were built to 'toy' standards.
As such, the SACAA cannot issue the RLA and you need to submit an "Alternative Means of Compliance" which in the case of South Africa consists of a Safety Case.
The purpose of the Safety Case is to demonstrate to the SACAA that your proposed drone meets sufficient safety standards to be used commercially in shared airspace. Also, the Safety Case should demonstrate the identified aviation risks of your proposed operation and provide sufficient and acceptable means of mitigation for said risks.
We advise that you compile a thorough and detailed RLA submission comprising the following documentation:
We advise that you collect all of this documentation and present it (or deliver per courier) in a neat folder with appropriate sub-divisions or annexes to the SACAA.
ICASA Radio License
When you purchase a handheld aviation radio (capable of receiving and transmitting on VHF) request the store owner to provide you with evidence that the radio has been approved by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) in terms of the frequency it uses.
This is normally evident with either a sticker on the device bearing an ICASA Logo or can be separate document issued by the shop owner. Next, you will have to apply to ICASA for a Radio Station License. See below.
RPAS & CONTROLLER
Similarly, you need to obtain proof that each RPAS you wish to operate has been cleared by ICASA for the frequencies that it will use. Ensure that when you purchase your RPAS that the re-seller provides you with a copy of the Type Approval Certificate for the drone and controller. You will need this when you apply for the RLA Certificate later on in the process.
Then, you also have to apply for an Aircraft "Radio Communication Application". This is a form obtained from ICASA's website - click here to download the form. A payment has to be made for such application per hand radio. You also need to provide a copy of the Certificate of Registration for the drone and your Company's Registration Documentation (COR 14.3).
When applying to the Air Service Licensing Council or SACAA, you need to submit the actual Radio License.
Figure out "Who will be Responsible for What" in the ROC
The minimum amount of people needed for a ROC is two, provided it is a small (5 or less RPAS) company doing relatively uncomplicated work and does not want to do BVLOS/EVLOS/Night/Controlled Airspace/higher than 400 feet flying etc.
There are six posts that needs to be filled by these two people according to the SACAA. They are:
We suggest splitting these responsibilities into two groups as follow:
Accountable Executive/Flight Ops Manager/Responsible Person: Aircraft
Qualifications Needed for these two People:
RPAS Pilot's License and RPAS Security Awareness Training;
Safety Management Systems/Quality Assurance Management and RPAS Security Awareness Training.
These are Aviation Courses presented by multiple Approved Training Organisations (ATO's) in the Republic. A good internet search will provide you with all the answers you need.
Sample CAA Forms
We've completed all the ROC forms needed for the SACAA. We've used our own Company as a sample only for a single multi-rotor in VLOS operations. Your information/scope/complexity might differ significantly from these samples:
Remember: The SACAA do not accept digital or electronic signatures on these forms. Check the CAA website for updated forms
CALL US (GMT +2): +2712 940 9196
This can be tricky and must be done EXACTLY right otherwise it could delay your whole ROC process.
Remember, the SACAA can take anywhere from 6 to 10 weeks to review your manual, so please make sure it is written correctly. Also, you will be audited by the SACAA on the contents and implementation of all the procedures contained therein so make sure the text is a fair reflection of the actual activities that you wish to undertake.
The most important thing to remember with the Operations Manual is that this document should provide guidance to everyone in the ROC based on the Regulations contained in Part 101.
It should NOT be a copy of the Regulations but rather be a set of systems, processes and procedures to illustrate to the SACAA and your staff HOW you will comply to the Regulations.
The Civil Aviation Technical Standards for Part 101 (here's the link - click on "Technical Standards Flight Operations" and then on "Part 101") provides guidelines about the contents of the manual and what it should contain.
If you struggle with this document, we recommend using an experienced Aviation Advisory Service to assist you. This can be expensive so choose wisely and ensure that you get an editable version of the manual when finished since you will need to constantly amend this document and don't want to pay consultants all the time for this.
To help out, we decided to include a sample piece of text here to provide you with an idea of the required standards acceptable to the SACAA. The example below is approved text for the Operations Manual of an existing ROC holder and Client of ours; Rocketmine (www.rocketmine.com) and is used with the permission of the MD, Mr. Chris Clark:
This text concerns a procedure used inside this ROC to ensure that any Aeronautical Information Circular (AIC) published by the SACAA regarding RPAS is recorded and sent out to all personnel affected by it.
"AIC/AIP SUPPLEMENTS UPDATE PROCEDURE
(a) The Operations Manager or person designated in writing by the Operations Manager shall, at least once per two weeks visit the SACAA website (www.caa.co.za) and click on “Aeronautical Information” under the “Information for the Industry” tab on the website to access all the AIC’s and AIP Supplements issued by the SACAA.
(b) Such a person shall then ensure that any relevant AIC’s and AIP Supplements are downloaded and saved under the “Safety” folder in the digital library. This is to ensure that the Company has access to the latest relevant information published that might affect the safety of our operations.
(c) Should the Operations Manager be of the opinion that a specific AIC or AIP Supplement include urgent information that might affect the safety of our operation, he/she shall immediately compose and circulate a notice to all affected personnel."
Good luck with your application and remember the Golden Rule: Every document you draft or procedure you implement should always champion Safety above all else.
RPAS Guidance Document
This guidance document is provided to our Clients and rather than duplicate the text on this site, we've decided to share it with everyone through a download link. Click here to download the latest version.
Once you've downloaded and read it, consider these additional guidelines below to help you in your application.
These guidance notes are derived from assisting others obtain their ROC's. However, as noted above, sometimes the processes or procedures/forms at the SACAA or Air Service Licensing Council are amended and might differ from the guidance offered in the document or below.
If you note a significant difference, kindly let us know in order to update the guidance document and also these notes.
Understand the process
Take some time and read the SACAA published material, specifically this link to their website explaining the basics of RPAS in South Africa. The page also contains multiple links on the right hand side providing specific information on different processes and procedures.
We will use the Commercial ROC process as sample since it involves the most procedures and documentation.
Copyright © 22 Degrees South Aviation (Pty) Ltd.. All rights reserved
reg. no.: 2016/174451/07
email us today: firstname.lastname@example.org