Regardless of whether a drone takes off from a Windhoek backyard to catch the last glimpses of Namibia’s spectacular sunsets or if it is being used to take high-definition images of a construction site, flying any drone in the country means it is subject to the laws of Namibian airspace. In fact, the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) currently requires all drone operates in the country to register their drones and apply for a Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) Letter of Approval (RLA) with the authority.
The NCAA’s Daniella Bruckert explained the ease of the drone pilot registration process, saying it can be done electronically, as all necessary forms and procedures are available on the NCAA’s website. This stringent requirement comes as both private and commercial drone use around the world continues to grow, necessitating modern regulations to be developed and enforced. These laws are being designed particularly as instances of dangerous and irresponsible drone flying are on the increase.
Namibia’s current regulations for drone operations, called NAMCAR Part 101, 2020, applies to RPAS (drones and other remotely piloted aircraft), as published in Government Gazette No 7157 on 27 March 2020. Drone operators who do not adhere to these regulations face a hefty fine and possible suspension from operating RPAS in Namibian airspace.
“Increasing use of RPAS and more complex operations by RPAS as well as an increased desire for enhancing safety in RPAS operations in Namibia led to the redrafting of Part 101… The increasing complexity of RPAS and expansion of the RPAS market may have us revisit the RPAS regulations soon, especially the licensing of RPAS pilots and the operation of complex modalities in the commercial sector,” Bruckert explained in response to questions from Inside Business.
Bruckert stated that while all RPAS in Namibia currently need to be registered if permanently based in the country, “there may be a need to amend the registration legislation in the future”.
This is because, while drone regulations are the responsibility of aviation authorities, drones present a new problem in enforcing the regulations, as drone operators are sometimes difficult to trace. Also, with a low risk of consequences and the easy availability of powerful drones, aviation authorities have found it challenging to get some drone owners to comply.