Experts Discuss How Nigeria Can Benefit From Drone Technology To Accelerate Growth

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A report claimed that the global commercial drone market is expected to grow by 26 per cent each year from 2016 to reach a value of $10,738 million by 2022.

In the world today, airports, airlines and aircraft manufacturers are tapping into the benefits of the maturation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), also known as drones, with applications ranging from airport inspections to bird control and parcel delivery.



But, participants at the four days 2nd Drone Technology Expo and Conference Held at NIGAV Expo Centre, Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos, last week observed that Nigeria was lagging behind in keying into the opportunities and potentials in the drones technology, while the global aviation industry awaits lead from international bodies.

Various participants however, advised the Nigerian government to change its policies and legal frameworks in order to develop evenly with others, maintaining that the world would not wait for the country.

Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, the Managing Director, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) in his paper presentation: ‘Looking into the Future of Commercial Cargo Drones: Airport Perspective,’ said that the autonomous cargo operations is real and already here in Nigeria.

Yadudu explained that the global airport wait on the regulatory directions and potential integration from world aviation bodies like the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Airport Council International (ACI), International Air Transport Association, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and others.

According to him, the delivery drones market is poised to grow at Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 12 per cent by 2027, stressing that factors driving delivery drones market are increased demand for drone delivery services.

Despite the waiting for the global aviation bodies, Yadudu explained that FAAN was not shying away from embracing technology and was ready to collaborate with relevant and well-meaning organisations to advancing the future of travel in a safe and seamless manner through advanced technologies.

Yadudu emphasised that in Nigeria, relevant authorities, particularly the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) are working to put necessary policy frameworks that would aid the seamless operation of drones in place.

He expressed confidence that when the regulatory frameworks are concluded, Nigeria also would be able to explore the unending possibilities made available by the UAV technology.

He added: “The airport is a very important development facility and enabler of the economy, the future of airports is assured in all cases no matter which way the aircraft future develops, there will always be the need to carry huge cargo and mass transport of people over a great distance at speed and the airport will always be the takeoff and the landing place for the aircraft.

Also, Air Vice Marshal Olufemi Idowu (retd), President, Nigerian Unmmaned Systems Association (NUSA), in his paper: ‘The Prospects and Challenges of Drone Service in Nigeria,’ said that the spike in the drone industry growth in the last few years has made it a multi-billion industry.

Idowu stated that making use of all the prospects available in the drone industry would put Nigeria on the map of drone users on the continent, regretting that so far, other African countries are ahead of the country.

The NUSA President noted that drones could be used in such fields as mail delivery, food and medical supplies delivery, carrying out of dangerous tasks, exploration, agriculture, construction and mining, creation of 3-D maps, creation of amazing pictures and videos, adding that drones are cheaper than helicopters or planes.

He pointed out further that drones could also be used in law enforcement as presently being done by security agencies in advanced countries, stressing that it could also be used in solving conflicts.

Besides, Idowu canvassed for the revision of rules and regulations in Nigeria to include recreational drone users, giving them an opportunity to embrace this technology.

He added: “However, many people simply overestimate their abilities to operate a drone, especially beginners who often think that they have everything under control. Yet, they are often wrong and cause serious accidents. Thus, the recreational operator must be encouraged to fly in remote areas so damage cannot be done to other people.

“We should however, also consider making stipulations to create awareness for drones as they can also be quite dangerous if they end up in the wrong hands. The operation of drones is not that easy. In fact, it takes plenty of time until a beginner will learn how to fly a drone in a secure manner.

“There is also an issue with the rules and regulations related to drone use. In fact, there are still no proper regulations in place that would set a framework for drone use in the private sector.”

In his presentation at the event, ‘Drone’s Unique Capacity for Accelerating Accident Scene Management,’ Engr. Akin Olateru, the Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) said that the agency has procured five Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) in recent years with different range capacities.

According to him, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro has the maximum operating time of 31 minutes and video transmission distance of 7.2km, while the DJI M300 RTK has the maximum operating time of 55 minute with 15km maximum video transmission distance.

Olateru also explained that AIB has trained and certified 20 RPAS operators, stressing that drones are useful tools for accelerating accident scene management.

Besides, he said that accident investigation relies on accurate, thorough data collection to reveal their causes and future recurrence; this he said is gradually being solved with the use of drones.

He added: “RPAS are increasingly being used by investigators for their maneuverability and high definition scanning and mapping capabilities.

“As technology evolves, they have the potential to become essential tools for preventing accidents, thereby saving lives.”

Besides, Mal. Kashifu Abdullahi, the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had in November 2019, during the eNigeria Conference, unveiled the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), which were anchored on eight pillars.

The pillars are developmental regulation, digital literacy & skills, solid infrastructure, service infrastructure, digital services development & promotion, soft infrastructure, digital society & emerging technology, and indigenous content promotion & adoption.

Abdullahi, however, stated that there was the need to harness logistics with drone technology, thereby creating a huge opportunities to advance the country’s digital economy.

He added: “As ecommerce gains traction globally, the application of drones for quick delivery of packages is gaining momentum. Global e-commerce giants such as Amazon are already experimenting with drone delivery technologies.

“While speed may be the first thing that comes to mind when we discuss drone package delivery, the environmental benefits are also worthy of consideration. A study compared drones to truck delivery and found that CO2 emissions alone are 200 times more when we use trucks, and the cost of operation is 260 times more. Overall, drones were reported to accomplish delivery tasks in 20 per cent of the time it takes a delivery vehicle and are far less polluting.”