South Africa is the African Continent’s Largest Drone Market

When one thinks of the expanding drone market in Africa, the activities of US-based drone companies like Zipline – which has spent years delivering medical supplies to needy villagers in countries like Rwanda, Ghana and Nigeria – typically come to mind.  But, in fact, the largest drone market on the continent is located in South Africa, where an expanding number of locally designed and manufactured UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle) are playing an increasingly important role in mine and farm management and wildlife protection.

As of April 2023, some 43 drone start-ups – most of them founded since 2018 – were already conducting commercial operations in South Africa.  In fact, dozens more are preparing to come on line.  South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority – the country’s FAA – records over 350 applications from South Africa-based drone companies – some old, some new – still pending approval.  Few countries, even in Europe, can boast such an impressive arsenal of state-of-the-art drones – ranging from fixed wing aircraft to EVTOL vehicles and quadcopters – already in service or waiting to be deployed.

Not surprisingly, the largest commercial drone niche in South Africa is found in mining, an industry in which the country has long ranked as a global leader.    South Africa is the largest source of titanium, platinum and manganese worldwide and still ranks in the top five as a source of diamonds, gold and even coal.  Mining is also the largest industry by far in South Africa and mined goods are the country’s biggest export.  As of 2017, some 500,000 South Africans worked in mining and the sector added a whopping $22 billion in value to the country’s GDP.

Given the mining’s outsized importance, it’s no surprise that drone development is also highly advanced in this sector.  In addition to aerial mapping and underground mine inspections (requiring specialized drones with sense-and-avoid technology capable of flying without GPS), several South African mining companies deploy drones that can drill holes for excavation, drop explosives and measure the resulting blast volume.  Drones equipped with sophisticated data analytics can also calculate rates of excavation and measure the size and weights of stockpiles.

Equally important in an industry with a high risk of death and injury, drones can detect structural weaknesses in mines as well as toxic gas accumulations that might lead to workplace explosions and contamination and injure or kill miners.  And by replacing field surveyors for routine – but often precarious – mine inspections, drones further reduce the risk of workplace accidents and injury.

With agriculture expanding rapidly in South Africa, attention is also turning to the use of drones for “precision” agriculture,  a state-of-the-art farm management technique that allows for careful targeting of farm inputs – especially pesticides – to areas of land most in need.  South African companies gained their first SACAA regulatory approval for drone crop-dusting vehicles back in 2016.  The first drone  flight was conducted by the Natal-based company DCG in the region’s vast sugar cane plantations. The AGRAS MG-1P model, manufactured by China-based DJI, applied chemicals at a rate of 30 liters per hectare, in accordance with crop spraying regulations. It covered 6 hectares of farmland in record time (just 90 minutes), sharply reducing fuel and labor costs.

Since then, agricultural drones manufactured by South Africa’s XAG have expanded beyond pesticides into fertilizer spraying with advanced analytics that can measure areas with the highest soil fertility to maximize potential yields.  The newest drones can fly just a yard or two above the soil and crops, and can be programmed to follow mapped routes via GPS, which makes application that much easier.

Research shows that spraying by helicopters and fixed wing aircraft is poorly adapted to South Africa’s sugar cane fields, which are overwhelmingly dominated by small plots of land that require low-cost precision applications.  XAG drones operating just in sugar cane– a $1 billion a year industry, South Africa’s largest, by crop – have been shown to save 30% in farm input costs and 90% in the volume of water supplies used.

South Africa is also emerging as a world leader in another area:  drones deployed to deter wildlife poachers.  The center of this effort appears to be Kruger National Park where rhinoceroses especially, but also elephants, are under constant siege from poachers.  The park’s overwhelmed ranger teams have turned to advanced technology, most recently to UAVs, equipped with thermal imaging cameras that can identify the heat signatures of poachers that operate almost exclusively at night.  The drones relay their tracking information to ground teams that move in to apprehend the intruders, which sometimes leads to violence (about 30% of the time). But the deterrence also works:  Once poachers become aware of the threat of detection and apprehension, they generally cease their operations almost completely, officials report.

Kruger, which had experienced more than 200 rhinoceroses captured and killed annually during 2018-2020, has seen large reductions over the past two years, according to official data.  But more drone surveillance is still needed, especially as poachers begin moving into private game reserves which lie outside government jurisdiction.  Last year, the government initiated public-private partnerships to expand its drone activities into the reserves.  Some rhinoceros species still face extinction, officials say, and time is running out.

ABOUT US: is a Nationwide Media Company specializing in custom Drone Videos for real estate, commercial, farms, construction, golf courses, roof inspections and more. All of our Drone Operators are fully licensed and insured. When you purchase a Drone Video Package from us, you will receive a video professionally edited, color corrected and presented to you on an SEO-Friendly webpage that you can easily share online and on Social Media with a click of a button. Click here to get started.
Start Your Order
We Offer a Variety of Drone Video Packages
to Fit Your Needs and Budget

Plus, Share in Our Success with Lucrative Income-Earning Opportunities:



We get the assignments for you, you do the shoots. An opportunity to boost your income substantially! Learn more



We’ll supply you with all the links, tools and guidance needed to earn generous referral commissions. Learn more



Demand for quality aerial footage services is huge. Monetize your ideas by reselling your videos! Learn more

We Also Sell Stunning Aerial Stock Footage for a Variety of Uses.


We’re building a big library of original stock footage. All video is 4K Ultra HD quality, available at reasonable prices. Check out our HD aerial still photos, too Search Now >