The local drone industry has been explosive in the last few years, rapidly climbing in status among the typical technology purchases and seasonal gift lists across South Africa. The challenge is that the industry hasn't yet known how to service and scale this demand in a nascent industry. The connection between sales, training and education, regulatory compliance, repairs and accessory suppliers has been disparate, allowing for droneenthusiasts to fall short of the law, putting themselves and others at risk.
Now, for the first time, a convenient, trustworthy and countrywide retail and after-sales support, repair and training network will be available to the thousands of drone flyers in the country, due to a partnership announcement made by SA's leading technology support company weFix and one of SA's leading youth and adult training providers, Drone Racing Africa (DRA).Alex Fourie, founder and CEO of weFix says, “As two industry leaders, we are aligned in our view of safety and education on drones. Now we bring convenience and accessibility to the table nationally across 36 weFix stores, just as we have done so successfully through our 150 technicians servicing more than 650 000 customers to date across Apple devices and leading phone brands Samsung, LG, and Huawei since 2006."
Drone purchasers are also in need of repairs and accessories once they start flying. Propellers, camera and batteries are repeated items that need ongoing repair or backup. "Buying a DJI Mavic Pro, for example, is only part of the equation if you want to film wide angle, sports or extreme footage. Equally important is the after-market accessories that mount the camera and the technology support nationwide. And once droneenthusiasts have access to the equipment, they most importantly need to fly safe," adds Fourie.
While the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has published rules around the flying of drones, the vast majority of people are unaware of where they can fly their drone legally and of the various options for certification to fly. The partnership's combination of product and training is therefore essential to the industry.
Commenting on the new partnership, Simon Robinson, CEO of DRA says, “This is great news for the industry at large, which has previously been known for its diverse service providers. Now, together with DRA’s formal drone operating skills and weFix’s expert distribution of DJI drones, technical support and back-up, we can better uphold our responsibility to be safety first in a way that is accessible for customers at a national level. Simply put, drone enthusiasts can buy, train, certify, repair and enhance all under one roof across the country. The drone marketplace has been needing something like this since it started.”
It is essential, and law, that any new drone purchaser understands the rules as set out by the SACAA, but at the point of purchase there is often insufficient education due to a lack of partnerships with certified operators. The reality is that children as young as eight are flying drones but on many occasions neither they nor their parents are aware of the need for education and safety awareness and certification. According to Robinson, DRA options are "a Junior Drone Racing Course for children from 8-years, or for those wanting a more in-depth understanding of operating a recreational drone, a Drone Flying Competency Course for 14-year olds and upwards, and then 18-year olds can take their RPL (Remote Pilot License) to become a qualified commercial pilot, enabling them to earn an income from flying a drone. Internationally, whether you are starting out or are an expert pilot, ongoing education, compliance, and a proven technology support partner are the key success factors for all involved."