Earlier this month the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) issued the first drone pilot licence to Nicole Swart, a 23-year-old pilot and a testing standards officer for aviation personnel standards at the SACAA. This follows the introduction of South Africa’s regulations regarding drones that were finalised at the beginning of July.
“I am thrilled by the honour to be one of the pioneers in this field,” Swart says, adding that she thinks drones are set to become “as common and necessary as cellular phones”. She says she wanted to ensure she was suitably equipped and skilled for the growth of drone usage.
Swart says her fascination with the aviation industry started when she was a child. “When my sister and I were still young, our parents used to travel a lot due to work commitments. I would innocently wish that I could fly to wherever they were when I missed them. That dream got cemented when I boarded an aeroplane the first time at the age of thirteen to go on a holiday. I knew there and then that I wanted to fly aeroplanes.”
Director of civil aviation at the SACAA, Poppy Khoza, who presented Swart with her pilot’s licence for “remotely piloted aircraft systems” (RPAS), says the issuing of the licence bodes well for getting more young people interested in the local aviation industry.
“We need more young people to join the aviation industry, as there is a shortage of specialist aviation skills across the world,” Khoza says. “It is also critical that women and historically disadvantaged individuals consider careers in aviation as the current statistics relating to previously disadvantaged persons are still at miniscule levels with pilots, in particular, constituting 8% of total licensed personnel.”