Cheetah vs Drone. (Original Photo: Cameron Spencer and Ronen Tivony)
  • Four local insurance companies won’t touch drones with a barge-pole.
  • A fifth company will – but only if the drone is officially registered, which is hard to impossible. 
  • Happy-go-lucky hobbyists breaking the rules are among the reasons drones are considered too risky.
  • Often-broken rules include not flying within 50 meters of a person, no higher than 122 meters from the ground, and not over private property.

Good luck getting drone insurance in South Africa.

Business Insider South Africa applied for in-flight cover with four companies. They all turned us down. A fifth company was willing to talk – if the drone was officially registered.

They cited: happy-go-lucky hobbyists who end up crashing their drones into animals, buildings and people; operators breaking the rules; and the remote nature of the technology as reasons it is too risky to insure drones.

Cheetah vs Drone

While it is not illegal to fly a drone privately, hobbyists remain uneducated of the rules and regulations set by the South African Civil Aviation Authority.

And insurance companies worry about a “catastrophic disaster” if a drone collides with a plane or helicopter.

The rules that are supposed to avoid such a disaster, and lesser accidents – and that are often broken, are:

  • don’t fly a drone within 50 meters of a person or group in public without their permission;
  • don’t fly higher the 122 meters from the ground;
  • don’t fly over private property without express permission from the owner
  • don't fly in no-drone zones.

Drones used for commercial purposes need to be operated by a pilot with a remote pilot licence (RPL) under a company with a remote operating certificate (ROC). 

Drones also can’t be flown 10 kilometers from an airport.

Read: SA's most popular drone is way ahead of its competitors. Here are the 5 reasons why

Failing to follow the rules could lead to fines of up R50,000 or a 10-year prison sentences, according to the SACAA.

These videos show why insurance companies don’t want to cover the expensive hobby.  

No flying within 50 meters of a person, property or road, no higher than 122 meters.  

Businessman David Perel found our first hand after a drone smashed through his window and hit his head.

Drones don’t always see the dangers.

Even with obstacle sensors, drones struggle to pick up things like electrical wires and branches. Drones can lose signal as well as run out of battery. Become familiar with its max flight distance and keep an eye on signal areas. A common mistake of beginner hobbyists is to forget to tag its GPS location and your drone ends up going for a swim.  Before you fly, you should be familiar with the controls of your drone. There are even simulators to practice.

Birds are also a drone's nemisis. 

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