Can I use my drone in Madikwe?
More and more frequently our guests carry a drone in the luggage, and thus want to film the beautiful scenery of Rhulani and Madikwe from the air. However, there are some important restrictions and rules in place. What should you consider in your travel preparations?
The Park Administration has issued clear instructions for the use of drones. Or let’s be more precise: The name "drone" is actually not correct, as it refers to an autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicle that can operate at a level beyond line of sight reacting to its environment and with the ability to adapt to challenges such as a flock of birds. This does not apply to the filming platforms that will be used by our guests. The correct term is "Remotely Piloted Aerial System (RPAS)".
A first, fundamental point is that no one in the reserve can give permission to anyone to use an RPAS for commercial gain. Permission that can be given in line with the National Protected Areas Act is related to the right to film in a protected area only. How the filming takes place and the platforms used is regulated by other legislation, such as Civil Aviation Regulation 101 Which Applies to the use of RPAS. (All the introduction presentations done for the industry and a summary of the legislation can be accessed here).
Why is this regulation so strict? Declan Hofmeyr, Environmental Management Inspector in Madikwe, informs: "Poorly programmed or low quality autonomous RPAS could face the real risk of colliding with a manned aircraft resulting in injuries or death. Without any regulation there would be no accountability."
Hofmeyr expresses another particular concern for Madikwe: "Probably in near future, rhino horn will be simply loaded up and flown on an autonomous route back to a pick up outside the park allowing the poacher to stay for longer and get subsequent horns with less risk of capture. A capable RPAS could even be used to bring in water, food or ammunition to resupply poachers. Flying high and at night it would be near impossible to detect and could fly directly to the poacher camp via GPS linked navigation.”
Lastly, there is the disturbance factor. Hofmeyr says: "Elephants, as an example, really, really do not like them!"
However, there are certain possibilities to use an RPAS. Because of the increasing number of requests, the park administration has now adopted the following pragmatic rule:
- The use of RPAS in Madikwe for private, non-commercial use requires Madikwe Park Management permission;
- The use of RPAS in Madikwe for commercial use requires permission of Madikwe Park Management and compliance with additional licencing in line with SACAA regulations;
- Any RPAS operated out beyond visual line of sight require additional licencing in line with SACAA regulations;
- For the purposes of convenience permission to film for commercial purposes within the footprint of the lodge development can be given at Madikwe Park Management level;
- Any other commercial filming in Madikwe must be approved at Ecotourism Manager level;
- Any submission to film for commercial purposes where a RPAS is planned to be used must be accompanied by a proof of compliance (whether planned inside or outside the lodge footprint).
Conclusion: There are ways to use the RPAS during your visit to Rhulani, but we ask all our guests, to follow the above rules, and as early as possible to contact us if you wish to obtain the necessary permits from Madikwe Park Management. You are personally responsible to obtain all further approvals, if necessary.
If you have any further questions please contact our Front of House.