New drone operation rules to take effect in 4 months

Thursday September 12 2019

In July 2017, the government tightened

In July 2017, the government tightened regulations governing the use of drones - and one has to obtain permission to operate the machines from the ministry of Defence and National Service, as well as special approval from the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA). PHOTO | FILE 

By Alex Malanga @ChiefMalanga amalanga@tz.nationmedia.com

Dar es Salaam. In four months from now, no drone will be allowed to operate in Tanzania without getting relevant permits from the civil aviation regulator, a senior government official has said.

In July 2017, the government tightened the flying regulations, thus requiring one to obtain permission from the ministry of Defence and National Service, as well as approval from the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA). The regulations were adopted in December 2018.

The new regulations, which are in line with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao), are meant to ensure proper oversight of ‘Unmanned Aircraft’ operations for security reasons.

According to Icao, aircraft capable of being operated without a pilot shall not be so operated except with written authorization of the civil aviation body - and in accordance with such conditions as may be specified.

Under the regulations, TCAA says normal airworthiness and operation standards do not apply to privately -operated unmanned aircraft below seven (7) kilogrammes.

However, such operators are also required to register their drones with TCAA.

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TCAA principal legal officer Maria Memba told The Citizen that, after the regulations were adopted in December last year, drone users were given until December 2019 to adhere to the new regulations.

“Before the start of implementation of the new regulations, we will do some amendments in some areas as recommended by a parliamentary committee,” said Ms Memba.

The committee was of the view that registration fees should vary depending on the type of drone.

Adopted last December, the regualtions require both commercial and privately-owned drones to pay $100 (about Sh230,000) in registration fee.

“We will prescribe different rates as per recommendations of the committee,” said Ms Memba - adding that “the TCAA director general (Hamza Johari) will issue a circular on the rates in the very near future.”

The committee also suggested the age of the commercial drone pilot be 18 years as per Icao - as opposed to 21 years proposed by TCAA.

The regulator plans to invite all drone operators for a seminar on the new regulations.

“For security reasons, we have developed a framework that requires potential drone pilots to apply for a licence - and will be guided by strict but ‘friendly’ rules governing flights,” noted Ms Memba.

The Tanzania Airports Authority (TAA) director general, Mr Julius Ndyamukama, welcomed the move, saying that - if not regulated - drones would cause safety concerns.

“It is good to make the country drone-friendly while keeping our airspace safe,” Mr Ndyamukama explained.

Drones may not be flown within three (3) kilometres of any domestic airport, or five (5) kilometres of any international airport, the TCAA director general, Mr Hamza Johari, told participants at the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (Canso) Africa Conference 2019 in Dar es Salaam last week.

“We have to have regulations in place to protect aircraft, and stop unlawful activity,” he noted.

The Tanzania Forest Services Agent (Marketing and Investment) manager, Mariam Kobelo, welcomed the move.

She said the new developments would prevent misuse of drones.

“With the new regulations in place, drones would no longer be flown in restricted areas like those with government heritages,” Ms Kobelo told The Citizen.

TFS uses drones for filming forest areas in which it wants to prepare a documentary for official use. However, the Commission for Science and Technology (Costech) Systems Administrator, Mr Alfred Nyoni, was not in favour of the new regulations.

He said they are bound to hinder the spread of technology far and wide.

“The regulations are too tough to attract new operators in the technology sector,” Mr Nyoni stated.

Also, as a result of the long process in getting a permit to operate drones, people may lose some lucrative deals with their customers. Drones, Mr Nyoni revealed, were being used in land surveying, identifying borders and physical inspection of farm activities.

In another development, Tanzania is in the process of setting up four civilian radars which would enable surveillance of the whole country’s airspace.

A fortnight ago, Mr Johari said the government would on any day soon commission the radars installed at the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) and the Kilimanjaro International Airport (Kia).

He said testing of the radars and training of experts to operate them were already done, and only the commissioning is awaited.

The radar at Mwanza airport was at the testing stage, with commissioning expected next month, Mr Johari, said adding that testing and commissioning of the Songwe airport’s radar could probably be in November.