A number of people reading this, will picture the sleek messengers of death that the US uses to take out targets in the middle east when they hear “drones”. True, but those are not the drones we’re here for. Think more about the benign ones we like to take “dronefies” with.

Rwanda is building a drone port. The first in the world. And this is where this article really starts from.

For a long time, drones were expensive toys (they actually still are, even more so when they are the metal birds of death I talked about earlier), but we are beginning to have more affordable ones, such that Africa has leapfrogged more developed regions in integrating drones into everyday use, as seen in Rwanda.

What else are African countries doing and how far have they come over the years?

May 2014: Kenya

The Kenya Wildlife Service stopped initial plans to use drones in wildlife surveillance at OI Pejeta conservancy in Laikipia County. The government cited security concerns.

January 2015: Kenya

Kenya announced its drones regulations. The laws require licensing – that costs up to $1,000 in fees – before users can buy or fly drones.

March 2015: South Africa

Kruger National Park in South Africa began testing drones in monitoring poaching on its 1.9 million hectares real estate.

March 2015: South Africa

A South African radio station, Jacaranda FM began testing drones in reporting traffic in Gauteng. The pilot lasted for 15 days.  

May 2015: South Africa

South Africa began testing surveillance drones in Cape Town. Drones, fitted with Sony TV cameras and LED spotlight on gyroscope, were used in a drug bust in Cape Flats where city police launched them nearby to watch the perimeters of the crime scene.

July 2015: Tanzania

The Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI) began using drones to chase elephants out of farms and into protected areas. This is to stop the shrinking population of Elephants in Tanzania. In the place of bows and arrows that farmers use to send the big ones away, the government introduced drones which scare elephants off “in 30 minutes top”, without any physical contact with the Elephants.

July 2015: South Africa

South Africa launched regulations that will allow citizens use drones privately, but introduced strict limitations on commercial use in the country. With the regulation, anyone over the age of 18 can buy and fly drones without license for personal use. However, users are required to get a commercial license which costs up to $4000 if they choose to use it for business.

September 2015: Nigeria

A Nigerian e-commerce store, Yudala, announced it was going to begin experimenting with delivery via drones. Not much have been heard of actual deployment since then.

September 2015: Nigeria

Nigeria’s petroleum products regulator, the National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) announced it was going to stem crude‎ oil theft by using drones to monitor its pipelines across the country.

September 2015: Rwanda

Rwanda released initial concept shots for its droneport – a row of three tent-like buildings – for drones carrying emergency medicine supplies to rural Rwanda. Drones operating out of the port will also be able to carry consumer goods. The airport is reported as the first droneport for civilian use.

Most of the advancements in drones technology in Africa have occurred in the last eight months and we expect more of these as prices of drones continue to take a dip.

Image via: alvaro-sobrinho

Gbenga Onalaja Author

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