New poli­cies open up the space for un­manned air

The East African - - OUTLOOK -

By IVAN R. MUGISHA

DRONE OP­ER­A­TORS in Rwanda are hop­ing that the Un­manned and Re­motely Pi­loted Air­craft reg­u­la­tions passed in Jan­uary will at­tract in­vestors to the sec­tor.

The reg­u­la­tions, which fall un­der the su­per­vi­sion of the Rwanda Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity, did away with re­stric­tions on the use of un­manned air­craft sys­tems for com­mer­cial pur­poses. In­di­vid­u­als were not al­lowed to fly drones and other un­manned air­craft like free bal­loons whether for com­mer­cial or for recre­ational pur­poses.

While there are just a hand­ful of pri­vate drone op­er­a­tors in the coun­try presently, it is ex­pected that more com­pa­nies will ven­ture into the busi­ness.

How­ever, the lack of skilled man­power re­mains a chal­lenge, mean­ing that in­ter­ested com­pa­nies have to rely on ex­ter­nal labour or in­cur costs on train­ing local work­ers. But the Min­istry of ICT said it will part­ner with in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies to train and pro­vide drone fly­ing cer­tifi­cates to Rwan­dans.

Charis AUS, a local com­pany that pro­vides drone services in­clud­ing tech­ni­cal in­spec­tions of build­ings and mon­i­tor­ing of min­ing sites as well as for so­cial func­tions, said the poli­cies had opened up the drone space in Rwanda.

“Drones are still new in Rwanda and the re­gion as a whole and peo­ple are just get­ting used to them,” said Charis AUS, tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor” Teddy Se­gore. “But the laws have opened up the space for busi­ness. We have now ex­panded to Tan­za­nia and Uganda.”

US ro­bot­ics firm Zi­pline, which de­liv­ers med­i­cal sup­plies and blood to hos­pi­tals and clin­ics in re­mote ar­eas has been in op­er­a­tion since 2016. The com­pany now de­liv­ers blood trans­fu­sion prod­ucts to over 20 health cen­tres in record time.

The Min­istry of Health said de­liv­er­ies that would oth­er­wise take hours now hap­pen in less than 30 min­utes.

Zi­pline re­ceives phone text or­ders from

Pic­ture: File

A drone mon­i­tors an Ir­ish potato crop in a farm in Rwanda’s North­ern Prov­ince.

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