Recreational Drone Use

See also: Groups


Recreation is an activity of leisure, leisure being discretionary time. The “need to do something for recreation” is an essential element of human biology and psychology. Recreational activities are often done for enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure and are considered to be “fun”.

“Recreation.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

People love aviation, things that fly, the bird’s-eye view. People love photographs and having a new vantage point from which to take those photographs. People have all kinds of ways of spending their spare time and enjoying life. Drones are a part of this, giving hours of fun and enjoyment, providing memories, and learning new skills.

Recreational drone flying has opened up the world of aviation to everyone. The advances in technology make it possible for beginners to get flying with little to no knowledge or training. Unfortunately this technology has its limitations and terms and conditions definitely do apply when it comes to flying drones.


When recreationally operating a drone somewhere other than at a SAMAA registered model aircraft club, you are allowed to do so under SACAA RPAS Private Operations laws. The law is pretty simple:

View the latest SACAA promotional brochure and flyer regarding the operation of RPAS here.

Among others, there are two important laws relating to the flying of drones and model aircraft:

Additionally to this, always check on a map of the area you intend to fly in beforehand for possible trouble spots and where your local airstrips, paragliding clubs etcetera , police stations, prisons, military bases and game reserves are located and avoid those areas. See: PDASA Drone Map

What the private operations law basically comes down to is safety, don’t fly in public areas, don’t fly too high, don’t fly anywhere you don’t have permission to fly. The danger doesn’t always come from the flying of the drone, its usually from when things go wrong, like a malfunction or a pilot error and some drones, especially the larger ones can do some serious harm. Even a 1kg drone travelling at 60km/h will send most humans to the hospital for stitches and possibly worse.


Recreational use of model aircraft and drones has traditionally been governed by the South African Model Aircraft Association(SAMAA). Using a drone for recreation does not automatically mean that you fall under SAMAA. SAMAA generally limits its activities and influence to its members and only as long as they are operating from their registered or approved areas or clubs. What this means is that if you operate a drone at a SAMAA registered club (roughly 300 clubs across South Africa), you fall under SAMAA but if you operate a drone anywhere else in South Africa, you fall under SACAA RPAS private operations.

SAMAA registered model flying clubs are a great place to meet other pilots, get advice and fly with other pilots on a regular basis. But be warned, there are strict rules in place such no-fly zones, membership fees, and proficiencies(flying and knowledge skill tests). First speak to the people in charge before you fly.

Registering Approved Flying Areas

It is possible and very practical to register your own flying site for small model aircraft and drones through SAMAA. If you and some friends regularly fly at a certain place you can register a “Park flier” area with SAMAA which makes it legal to fly there and gives you a maximum height of 150 feet (45 meters) allowed height for your flying, naturally there are some limitations such as a maximum weight limit of 1kg and a maximum wingspan of 1.2 meters for fixed-wing model aircraft.

It is also possible, with at least 10 members, to form a full-fledged SAMAA registered club complete with a 400 feet height alleviation, formal registration with the CAA, 3rd party insurance should there be any accidents and a host of other benefits. Naturally, terms and conditions apply, SAMAA have always been very strict when it comes to rules and regulations, but this just keeps everything safe and organised for all concerned.