The Western Cape Health Department officially has a license to operate drones. This is a first for South Africa. They will be used in rescue operations. The first devices in the project were launched on Table Mountain on Tuesday afternoon.

The department is the first government institution in the country that is allowed to fly over national key points. If an incident occurs in the mountain range around Cape Town, teams will be called out and the drone will be sent up in minutes.

EMS director Shaheem de Vries said that the department had hired registered pilots who would be assisting crews on the ground over the festive season. He stated that they would like to see drone operations extend to other services and parts of the city.

“We are the first state-owned licenced operator, and we would like to see this grow to other rescue services and parts of the city as well,” he explained.

He also pointed out that for now the focus is on the Table Mountain range, which can be dangerous both for hikers getting into trouble and for those being targeted by criminals.

“For instance, if a hiker falls on the mountain and is injured and the rest of his party can’t get to him, in that sort of scenario you can deploy the drone, you can see precisely what the situation is and actually plan your rescue.”