ICTs for Development

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Small drones in Africa: embracing the opportunities, overcoming the challenges

August 2, 2017

Whilst the availability of small drones provides exciting new opportunities, particularly for young African entrepreneurs keen to take advantage of this new technology, the slow development of regulations is holding the sector back from realising its potential.

Regulation of drones, otherwise known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), was a key topic at a recent symposium on 'Remotely piloted aviation in Africa: sharing experiences and challenges' held from 17-18 July in Abuja, Nigeria. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) event was hosted by the Government of Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Transportation (Aviation Sector) to provide an opportunity for states, international organisations and stakeholders to share experiences in addressing UAV operations across Africa and the Indian Ocean. Sessions focused on challenges to be overcome and benefits to be obtained, identifying how existing rules need to evolve in order to facilitate use of UAVs into the civil aviation system, and examining alignment between ongoing UAV development and supporting regulatory provisions.

Having presented at the recent 'RPAS Policy, Regulatory & Innovation Forum' held in Brussels, Belgium on 13-14 June 2017, Giacomo Rambaldi, CTA senior programme coordinator ICTs, was invited to give a video presentation at the ICAO symposium in Nigeria on CTA support for drones for agriculture in Africa, and the challenges regulations pose to the development of the UAV-based industry, particularly with regard to youth entrepreneurship. In his talk, Giacomo highlighted that too stringent regulations imposed on the import and use of UAVs and high costs associated with obtaining commercial use licenses risk jeopardising this very promising niche advisory service for young African entrepreneurs.

The presentation was warmly received, particularly as it was the only session focusing on job creation and opportunities for young people. Copies of the ICT Update 82 on drones for agriculture and CTA's new policy brief on 'Getting drones off the ground' were also shared with participants.