This is the second part of a series of articles aimed at highlighting the regulatory requirements for operating drones in Ghana. In the first part, awareness was raised about the emergence of drone technology for purposes of surveillance, entertainment, reconnaissance, combat and delivery of medical supplies. It was suggested that the increasing reliance on drone technology in many areas of human endeavour is a compelling reason for industry players and lawyers to be familiar with its regulatory requirements. The part 1 also discussed the regulatory institution, laws and regulations of drones, its classification, the requirements for registration and permit prior to operationalization and finally, the safety and risk management requirements. In this part 2, attention shall be focused on special authorisation and licensing/competency requirements. As noted in Part 1, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority’s (GCAA) regulations on Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or drones, are contained in its RPAS Directives (Part 28), 2018.
Requirement for Special Authorisation
For some defined types of drone operation, there is the need to seek special authorization from the GCAA. Part 28 (4.1) identifies these types as:
- The carriage of goods;
- The carriage of dangerous goods;[i]
- Night operations;[ii]
- Banner towing;
- Cross border operations;
- Hazardous operations;
- Dropping and discharging of things;
- Acrobatic, formation and racing flights;
- Operations in the restricted areas of aerodromes;
- Operations in areas of high RF transmission/interference (e.g. radar sites, high tension wires).
The Directive further requires applicants requesting for special authorization to submit the application not less than thirty days before the date of intended operation.
Licensing and Competencies
The regulation requiring licensing and competence is contained in Part 28.9 of the Directives (Part 28), 2018 as follows:
- The Directive imposes the same responsibilities on drone pilots as manned aircraft pilots, with respect to compliance with rules of the air, laws, Directives, regulations and procedures of Ghana. (Part 28.9(1)).
- A remote pilot licence is required for the operation of drones for commercial purposes. (Part 28.9(2)).
- The Directive further states that no person shall pilot a large RPAS or an RPAS with type certificate without having obtained a remote pilot licence from the Authority. (Part 28.9(3)). Type Certificate is defined by the Directive as a document issued by a State to define the design of an aircraft type and to certify that this design meets the appropriate airworthiness requirements of that State.
- An applicant for a remote pilot licence shall not be less than 18 years of age. (Part 28.9(4)).
- GCAA has the authority to review the competencies of licensees before issuance and renewal. (Part 28.9(5)).
- Pilots issues with drone licenses must hold a current Medical Class III Certificate in accordance with Part 8 of the Ghana Civil Aviation Directives. (Part 28.9(6)).
- For license holders under 40 years, the period of validity of a Class III Medical Certificate[iii] shall be from the date of the medical examination for a period not greater than 48 months. Medical Certificates for holders above 40 years shall be valid for 24 months. (Part 28.9(7)).
- Obligation for Personnel to Carry Documents. Operators of drones are required to have in their possession a valid permit issues by the GCAA and evidence of registration of the drone. (Part 28.9(8.a)).
- No person shall act as an RPA observer to an RPAS pilot licence holder without having in his or her possession proof of RPA observer competency issued by the Operator. (Part 28.9(8.b)).
- Licensed drone pilots must satisfy recency requirements in accordance with Part 2 of the Ghana Civil Aviation Flight Standards Directives. (S28.9(8.c)).
- Drone pilots who would be required to communicate via VHF radio with Air Traffic Station must show proof of Radiotelephony licence and English language proficiency. (Part 28.9(9.a,b)). The Directive does not prescribe the level of English language proficiency required. It is suggested that a pass at the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination would satisfy this requirement.
- The period of validity of a remote pilot licence is five (5) years, renewable every year upon proof of a valid medical certificate. (Part 28.9 (10)).
The GCAA’s requirement to comply with special authorization and licensing/competency regulations is part of many compliance obligations to operate a drone in Ghana. Industries such as private security service providers, energy, mining and oil companies who need to maintain surveillance over their concessions and properties for security reasons must pay particular attention to the special authorization requirements. The next part of this series will focus on type certification and airworthiness approvals, maintenance records and regulations relating to the operation of drones
*The writer is a lawyer and a retired senior military officer with over 20 years of professional experience. He has ongoing investigations and risk management experience with AngloGold Ashanti and is a Consultant Lawyer with CQ Legal and Consulting. He can be reached at email@example.com
[i] The Directive does not define what ‘dangerous goods’ are. It is suggested that potential operators seek clarification from the GCAA before flying goods might reasonably be considered a risk to safety.
[ii] Night is defined by the Directive as the period between sunset and sunrise.
[iii] The requirements for compliance are contained in Part 8 of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority Directives.