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Eyes in the Sky, Smart Techs on the Ground

Call for Expressions of Interest

February 15, 2018

Cost-sharing initiative for the set-up of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) services for agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). Its mission is to advance food and nutritional security, increase prosperity and encourage sound natural resource management in ACP countries. It provides access to information and knowledge, facilitates policy dialogue and strengthens the capacity of agricultural and rural development institutions and communities. CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.

There is a general consensus that smallholder farming needs to become more productive, more sustainable and more profitable. Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) – or drone-based systems – services can contribute towards these goals by bringing some of the tools of precision agriculture to producers, which include large and medium-scale holdings and associations of small-scale farmers growing the same crop in contiguous areas. Typically, UAS services are provided by entrepreneurs who invest in the equipment, learn the skills to use it, conduct or sub-contract data analysis, interpret the findings and advise their customers.

UAS can inform a range of services, including mapping and surveying (e.g. farm boundary delineations, crop area calculations, elaboration of digital elevation models), crop inventory (e.g. count of tree crops, yield estimations), crop scouting (e.g. identification of location-specific crop stress, assessment of biomass development), crop damage assessment (e.g. for insurance purposes), crop management advice (e.g. nitrogen application on selected crops), infrastructure inspection (e.g. irrigation systems, farm to market roads, etc.), and increasing farmers’ credit-worthiness via the integration of farmer profiles with high resolution images, crop diagnostics, and accurate and up-to-date georeferenced data sets. UAS can thus help increase returns to farmers and create new knowledge -intensive employment opportunities in rural areas, offering educated rural youth an alternative to migration.

Recognising the opportunities provided by UAS, in 2017 CTA partnered with leading private sector operators, and assisted ICT start-ups in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Jamaica, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia in acquiring the capacity to deliver UAS services. CTA organised a series of activities including training on the operation of drones and mounted multispectral sensors, understanding of safety and privacy principles and regulations, management and processing of remote sensed data, development of business plans and networking opportunities. In addition, CTA provided some financial support for the acquisition of necessary equipment.

On 26 January 2018, by issuing Decision EX.CL/Dec. 986-1007 (XXXII), the Executive Council of the African Union (AU), requested the AU and Member States to harness drones for agriculture as a selected emerging technology of relevance for the development of the African continent.

In line with this continent-wide policy recommendation, CTA, in partnership with Parrot – a global leader in the professional UAV industry - has decided to support an increase in the number of UAS operators and countries covered across Africa.
Selected companies / organisations would benefit from the following:

  • Full support for one company executive to attend an 8-day training workshop in Zambia. The training will include the basics of using unmanned aerial systems for agriculture, regulations, flight planning and flying your drone, data capture and analysis, notions on data interpretation, and business model development. CTA will cover costs of international travel and accommodation;
  • Partial financial support for acquiring UAV equipment (UAV, sensor) and analytical software;
  • 1 year free access to the AIRINOV FIRST+ agriculture mapping cloud platform limited to 100 frames per day which is equivalent to 10 hectares coverage at a flight altitude of 150 meters; The frames could be cumulated over a week (700 frames).
  • Technical backstopping until the end of 2019;
  • Remote and (based on merit) onsite support for UAS business development;
  • Training (distance learning) in the use of social media for marketing purposes;
  • Marketing for UAS services via dedicated CTA social media platforms.

Expressions of interest are accepted from companies / organisations registered in Sub-Saharan Africa and operating in the ICT4Ag / agricultural / agribusiness / agriculture advisory sectors. Priority will be given to countries that already have RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems) regulations in place which grant security of the airspace, but that also do not represent a disincentive to would-be UAS entrepreneurs/start-ups investing in delivering UAS services.

Expression of interest

Interested parties are invited to read what follows with great attention and submit the requested documents in PDF format not later than 15 March 2018 (2 PM, CET) to the following address: uav4ag@cta.int.

Documents to be submitted

  1. A company profile (as per template)
  2. A proposed business plan on how to operate as a UAS service provider in your country, including the listing of potential customers including but not limited to: (i) large scale agribusinesses; (ii) farmers’ associations / cooperatives having members growing the same crop on possibly contiguous areas; (iii) seed companies; and (iv) agricultural research institutions. The business plan should include a brief market study (1-page) identifying the market critical production levers and cropping practices and exploring UAS corresponding solutions.
  3. A motivation letter explaining the reason why the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) should invest human and financial resources in assisting your enterprise/organisation in developing Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) services for agriculture and the choice you would make in terms of aircraft, either the winged Disco Pro Ag or the quadcopter Bluegrass.
  4. Written statement that your company – if selected – will contribute 40% or Euro 2,390 to the cost of acquisition of equipment and software. Note that the beneficiary would need pay upfront the totality of the amounts due (5,974 Euro). CTA will transfer its contribution, corresponding to 60% of the paid amount on the account of the beneficiary, once valid proof of payment is received. The core equipment would consist of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) equipped with a Sequoia multispectral sensor and RGB camera. The selected Parrot solution could be either the winged craft Disco-Pro AG or the quadcopter Parrot Bluegrass. The analytical software would consist in one stand-alone license Agisoft PhotoScan, Professional Edition.
  5. Written statement that your company/organisation own at least one laptop meeting the following minimum and recommended hardware and software specifications:
    • Windows 8 or 10, 64 bits.
    • CPU quad-core or hexa-core Intel i7/Xeon.
    • GPU: high-end gamer class cards, like nVidia GeForce GTX TITAN X, TITAN X on Pascal, GTX 980 Ti or GTX 1080 Ti.
    • Hard disk: SSD + HDD
    • Minimum 32GB (best 64) RAM, 30-60 GB SSD Free Space.
  6. A report on the current rules and regulations (if any) governing the use of UAVs in your country and eventual requirements including (i) costs for obtaining permits/licenses for importing equipment, flying UAVs and operating as a commercial UAV operator; and (ii) costs for acquiring a 3rd party damage insurance with sufficient coverage to meet the requirements of the authority granting you the flying permit. Should your country have no RPAS regulations in place, you may still apply for CTA support, but would need to submit a letter issued by the concerned authorities (e.g. national civil aviation authority) granting your company the permit to eventually import and operate a small (> 1kg take-off mass) drone in case of successful application.
  7. Evidence of availability within your company/organisation of an agronomist or as an alternative, of a partnership between your organisation and a third party having agronomic skills.
  8. Evidence of availability within your company/organisation of an operational Geographic Information System (GIS) or as an alternative, of a partnership between your organisation and a third party having GIS facilities and skills.
  9. Name and position and language skills of the person who would represent the company during the eight day training in Zambia (management / business decision-making level requested). CV should be included.
  10. Copy of the registration / incorporation act of the company / organisation.
  11. A sworn statement dated at least 90 days as of the date of submission, signed by the authorised representative of the applicant, certifying that the company / organisation does not find itself in one of the following exclusion situations:
    • Is in a state of bankruptcy, liquidation, judicial settlement, discontinuance of activity, or in any suchlike situation resulting from proceedings of the same nature in the national legislation and regulations;
    • Is the subject of bankruptcy, liquidation or judicial settlement proceedings, or any other proceedings of the same nature in the national legislation or regulations;
    • Has been sentenced by judgement having the force of res judicata (i.e. against which there is no further appeal) for any offence that comprises his professional conduct;
    • Has been guilty of gross professional negligence;
    • Has failed to fulfil his obligations concerning the payment of social security contributions in accordance with the relevant legal provisions of the country in which he is established;
    • Has failed to meet his obligations concerning the payment of taxes and charges in accordance with the relevant legal provisions of the country in which he is established;
    • Is or has been guilty of making false statements when providing the information required by the CTA for his participation in a contract;
    • Has been found to have seriously failed to meet his contractual obligations arising out of another contract concluded with CTA.