The City of Cape Town has set in motion plans to use drone technology in its fight against crime.
Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said if the city received the green light from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), it would make Cape Town the first municipality in the country to use this technology.
“To our knowledge, there are no other municipalities in the country that are using drones or investigating the use of drones. Cape Town would be one of the first municipalities to undertake such an initiative,” he said.
Smith said the city has already sent staff for training, but official consent may still take a year.
Barry Schuller, the city’s director of CCTV and radio communications, told Weekend Argus that a meeting to start the process had been concluded with the CAA in June.
Smith said the city had spent more than R500 000 on drones, which would be used for pre- and post-operations: “Drones will be deployed as seen fit by the safety directorate within the legal parameters stipulated. The City of Cape Town staff will be tested by the CAA, which will be the final phase for staff to get their pilot’s licences.
“The horticultural area in Philippi, where many incidents of cable theft have been reported, has been earmarked for monitoring.”
Drone technology offers an “eye-in-the-sky” that could help policing and response.
CAA spokesperson Kabelo Ledwaba said the use of drones, or remotely piloted aircraft systems, includes various types of commercial and non-commercial activities such as security and crowd control, anti-poaching operations or conservation assignments, aerial surveillance, scientific research, journalism, monitoring services, filming and deliveries.
“It is for these reasons that there are rules governing the use of remotely piloted aircraft systems. It is thus important that individuals operating remotely piloted aircraft do so in line with regulatory guidelines.
“Applying these simple but critical airmanship principles will ensure that they do not compromise the safety of citizens, other aircraft or property. Failure to adhere to civil aviation regulations could result in a 10-year prison sentence or a fine of R50 000,” said Ledwaba.
Ruan Botha, a product manager at ICT company Rectron, said drone technology can be used as a tool to fight crime. In Hout Bay recently, drones were used to help apprehend a man who attacked a woman near Sandy Bay.
“Even the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa has looked to drones as a means of combating crime related with passenger trains. After a spate of train attacks, drones and forensic support have been brought in to help resolve issues.
“The human eye can only see so much and with advanced technology built into these drones, they can pick up unwarranted or suspicious human activity in areas of interest, even during the evenings using thermal infra-red cameras that pick-up body heat and movement.”