Experts meet to set regulations on safe drones use on the continent

By Elias Hakizimana

It is always questionable when a certain technology can involve incidents and accidents which can put lives of beneficiaries in danger.

Experts say that there is a need for standards regulations governing the usage of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or drones.

This kind of transport is aligned to the international core aviation principles for efficient share of space with airplanes.

Speaking during a three-day workshop on RPAS yesterday in Kigali, the state minister for Transport, Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye, said there is need for harmonized regulation given the growth of aviation industry and the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems.

“This workshop aims at stimulating regulations on use of drones, we currently have aircrafts but we also have innovation with drones which have evolved in technology and usage. They were initially used only in military circles, but today, they are in frequent use. They are being used for social, medical and business purposes,” Uwihanganye noted.

The state minister for Transport, Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye speaking to the media yesterday (Elias Hakizimana)

Uwihanganye said that Rwanda commit to be the bridge of such aircrafts without pilots which will possibly travel with the current planes.

“Because they will be sharing the same skyways with current planes, there should be regulations governing them to avoid accidents, I hope Africa and Rwanda will benefit from this workshop as technicians are seeing how to set such regulations,” said Uwihanganye.

He said that Rwanda is a home to Africa’s first drone port and drones are being used to save lives by making timely blood deliveries to hospitals across the country.

Drones were proved to be useful by private companies during their scientific research, aerial surveillance, land surveying, construction and agriculture monitoring.

Uwihanganye said they are making a policy and a strategy in line with the drones to start operating within a year.

The state minister for Transport, Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye said they are making a policy and a strategy in line with the drones to start operating within a year. (Elias Hakizimana)

He said that many people have so far requested to use drones in different activities including blood transportation which started operating to serve twenty-one health centers in the country.

“There are many others who come to us to request using drones by transporting other things between two and three tones, and we have the plan to set up a research center for that technology,” said Uwihanganye.

Barry Kashambo, the ICAO regional Director Eastern and Southern Africa said that there is need to see how drones can be safely operated to ensure this aircraft systems are controlled from the ground.

“They can operate in difficult conditions, in the place where there is no infrastructures for the bigger airports, yes, of course for every operation of air transport model there is always danger of accidents and incidents, and that’s why we are having this workshop we would like to see how can this be safely operated especially for the RPAS operation which is going to be integrated into the airspace where the normal aircrafts are operating,” said Kashambo.

“As we talk now, there are millions and millions of drones being manufactured, very soon we shall have more drones in the air than normal airplanes, it therefore important to equip players with skills, and provide them with regulatory framework,” he added.

The workshop aimed at discussing the challenges faced when integrating drones in the daily activities by aviation regulators, air navigation service providers and operators, and how to tackle such challenges.

Participants in the workshop expect to gain guidance coupled with skills on how drone technology can be employed in a safe and secure manner, without making accidents and incidents that can lead to loss of lives and properties.

The workshop which gathered together over 60 participants was organized by the International Civil Aviation Organization, Eastern and South African Office (ICAO ESAF).

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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,(www.rwandainspirer.com) is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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