DRONES: HOW IS IT REGULATED?

Drones, also sometimes referred to as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, are becoming increasingly popular amongst the civilian population. This is due to the fact that it is becoming widely available and increasingly affordable. Drone manufacturers are catering for all different types of consumers and different budgets, with some drone models retailing at less than a R1 000.00. This is good news for drone enthusiasts or those just looking for a fun past time activity. However, this increased popularity and accessibility means that more and more people own drones which result in increased drone activity in our airspace – which could cause chaos.

Disruptions at big international airports such as Heathrow and Gatwick have illustrated the chaos which can be caused by drones when operated illegally and irresponsibly. Numerous flights were suspended between 19 and 21 December 2018 at Gatwick Airport, Britain’s second-biggest hub, after drones were spotted in the vicinity of the airport in order to ensure the safety of the aircraft and passengers. This led to the disruption of thousands of travellers during the festive period.

One must distinguish between the operation of drones for commercial purposes vis-a-vis recreational purposes. The regulation of commercial drone operations (i.e., whenever a drone is used for commercial gain) does not fall within the scope of this article. However, readers are warned that one must have a Remote Pilot Licence when operating a drone for commercial purposes, and such a drone must be registered.

The remainder of this article will discuss how the use of drones for recreational purposes are regulated in South Africa. The South African Civil Aviation Authority (“SACAA”) has issued regulations which must be complied with when operating a drone for recreational purposes. You are not, according to these regulations, allowed to fly your drone in a manner which will in any way endanger the safety of another aircraft or person. This means that you are not allowed to:

  1. Fly your drone within 50 metres of a person or group of people. The regulations list sports fields, social events and schools as examples of places where you will be in contravention of this regulation should you fly there.
  2. Fly your drone within 50 metres of any property, unless you have obtained the consent of the property owner.

SACAA’s regulations further regulate the usage of drones for recreational purposes by imposing the following restrictions:

  1. You are not allowed to fly near any manned aircraft.
  2. You are not allowed to fly within a 10 km radius of any aerodrome (i.e. any airport, helipad, or airfield).
  3. Drones for recreational usage may not weigh more than 7 kg.
  4. You are not allowed to operate your drone within any restricted, controlled or prohibited airspace.
  5. Operating a drone more than 150 ft from the ground is prohibited.

SACAA’s regulations furthermore require drone operators to always maintain a visual line of sight with their drones when flying. This means that you must always be able to see your drone. Drone enthusiasts must only operate their drones in daylight and in clear weather conditions and should always inspect their drone before a flight.

It is of utmost importance to comply with the above regulations in order to ensure that you do not incur liability for any damages caused to people or their property. Readers are encouraged to do the necessary research in order to ensure that there are no regulations or by-laws which apply to their specific geographical area, since some local authorities may have specific restrictions in place.

Reference List:

  • http://www.caa.co.za/Pages/RPAS/Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems.aspx
  • http://www.nameandshame.co.za/Articles/Drones-what-the-law-says

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

I BOUGHT SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T WORK

Sarah buys furniture from Mark who promised her that the furniture is of good quality. However, he doesn’t notify her about problems with the furniture. Later, Sarah discovers that some of the chairs she bought have faulty joints, meaning they can’t be used properly. This is what’s called a latent defect and Sarah will be able to claim from Mark for the furniture not fulfilling its purpose.

A patent defect or a latent defect?

A patent defect is when there’s a problem with a purchased item but it was clearly visible and obvious to the buyer when the contract was signed. If the furniture that Sarah bought had a patent defect, such as a chair leg missing, it would be assumed that she knew about it and the law would not protect her.

NOTE: A defect is something that makes the product less useful or completely useless. A product not looking as good as you thought is not a defect. A piece of furniture with a stain on it can still be used normally. If the product has broken or missing parts, meaning it can’t be used properly, it’s a defect.

If the product you bought has a defect affecting its usability and purpose, then the seller is liable and you as the buyer can claim from them. You should also take into account if the contract had a “voetstoots” clause, meaning that you are buying a product based on its appearance or “as is”. If this is the case the seller would not be held accountable for any defects with the product, latent or patent.

What can I get back from the seller?

If the product you bought has a latent defect you can get a price reduction or a refund for the price you paid. A price reduction is the difference between the price you paid and the true value of the product. A full refund includes the price you paid, interest, maintenance costs and the cost of receiving the product. A full refund would also mean that you need to return the product that you got under the contract.

If a defect has caused you harm or damaged your property, for instance, you could possibly also claim this amount as compensation from the seller.

Who is a trader and who is a seller?

It’s important to keep in mind that there’s a difference between someone who is a trader and a seller. A trader is someone who makes a living from selling products, whereas a seller is an ordinary person like Mark in the example above. A trader who specialises in particular products and boasts having a specialized knowledge is held to a higher standard than an ordinary seller.

Sales talk or latent defect

It’s normal for sellers or traders to do the best to sell their product. This usually means “sales talk” or boasting about the products value and usefulness. They are allowed to do this, however, if they make statements about the product that turn out to be false, such as claiming the product can do something that it actually can’t, the law will be in your favour and protect you in the same way as a latent defect.

Before you agree to buy anything from a seller or a trader make sure you inspect the product first and make note of any defects there might be. If you neglect to inspect the product it could be more difficult for you to get compensation from the seller if there is a problem in the future.

Reference

  • “What you should know about Contracts”. 2009. The Western Cape Office of the Consumer Protector. Department of Economic Development and Tourism. Accessed from: https://www.westerncape.gov.za/ on 13/05/2016.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

MUNICIPAL DEBT INVALID, THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT HAS RULED

On 23 May 2017, the Constitutional Court heard an application for confirmation of an order of the High Court of South Africa, that declared section 118(3) of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act, 2000, constitutionally invalid.

On 29 August, in a ruling majority written by Justice Edwin Cameron, the court found that upon transfer of a property, a new owner is not liable for old municipal debt.

Section 118 of the Municipal Systems Act

Section 118(3) explains that municipal debt on any property is a charge upon that property and enjoys preference over any mortgage bond registered against the property. However, the question was whether this means that, when a new owner buys the property, the property remains with the debts of a previous owner.

What did the court say?

The court ruled that section 118 (3) is “well capable of being interpreted”, so that the historical debt is not transferred to a new owner of the property.

“What is notable about section 118(3) is that the legislature did not require that the charge (historical debt) be either registered or noted on the register of deeds. Textually, there is no indication that the right given to municipalities has a third-party effect (to a new owner)… It (historical debt) stands alone, isolated and unsupported, without foundation or undergirding and with no express words carrying any suggestion that it is transmissible,” the court said in the judgement.

References:

  • The Constitutional Court of South Africa
  • “Concourt rules new homeowners not liable for debts of previous owners”, Ray Mahlaka, The Citizen, 29 August 2017. https://citizen.co.za/news/south-africa/1631149/concourt-rules-new-homeowners-not-liable-for-debts-of-previous-owners/
  • Jordaan and Another v City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality and Others; New Ventures Consulting & Services (Pty) Ltd and Others v City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality and Another; Livanos and Others v Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality and Another; Oak Plant Rentals (Pty) Ltd and Others v Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality (74195/2013; 13039/2014; 13040/2014; 19552/2015; 23826/2014) [2016] ZAGPPHC 941; [2017] 1 All SA 585 (GP); 2017 (2) SA 295 (GP) (7 November 2016)

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)