Rwandan develops photography drone

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Rutayisire’s model drone. Drones are being widely used in aerial photography and monitoring nowadays. (Dominique Uwase Alonga)

Rwanda’s first ever drone company is creating new possibilities for the country’s private and public sector.

Charis Unmanned Aerial Solutions is only a month old but their drone, the first to be designed and built in Rwanda, has grabbed the attention of people in multiple industries.

The company is the brainchild of Eric Rutayisire, 23, a graduate of electrical engineering from the University of Minnesota. Inspired by a mentor from school whose hobby was drones, Rutayisire decided to bring the new technology back to his home country.

“There is a huge market for drones here,” said Rutayisire. “We want to custom-build drones based on a client’s needs.”

Along with his sister Ingabire Mamy as managing director, and his friend Terry Segore as technical director, Rutayisire hopes to develop drones that can be sold around the region and maintained by Charis in Rwanda.

It took him four months to build his first drone, a model designed for aerial footage and photography. Rutayisire said he built it with the intention of testing the market, and that other models can be built based on what the drone will be used for.

For now, the company has been importing parts from around the world to put it together, but Rutayisire said that once business starts picking up they want to make the parts in Rwanda.

“People have been telling us, ‘oh, you guys are just doing assembly’, but it’s not really assembly because you have to calculate a lot of things and improve what you want to put [on the drone],” said Rutayisire.

TV station eyes drone tech

So far it’s only been used to film aerial shots at last month’s Kigali Up music festival, but Rutayisire said they have been talking to many businesspeople who think the technology will benefit them, especially the film and TV industry.

Gustave Emilien, a visual information specialist at Family TV, said their company is eager to start using drone technology.

“As an entertainment channel we are really dying to use more drones,” said Emilien.

“We are new, the technology is new and we are competing with other channels; this will add a lot to the production. We will be able to capture the attention of viewers.”

He said using a drone could have helped them better cover the recent fires in Kigali. It was difficult for them to get good shots on the ground because of the crowd, and a helicopter would have been too expensive to hire.

“It’s amazing, I’m happy now that it’s in Rwanda,” he said. “It’s going to change the visual business market here.”

 The TV industry is not the only one interested in drone technology. Rutayisire said they are in talks with government agencies such as Rwanda Environment Management Authority (Rema) and the Ministry of Agriculture to see how drones can be useful to them.

Environment monitoring

Remy Norbert Duhuze, director of environmental regulation and pollution control at Rema, said drones would be useful for environmental monitoring, like documenting air quality.

“Sometimes getting data on air quality is hard because there are places that are hard to reach,” said Duhuze. “Drones would make it easier to do that.”

He said Rema is in preliminary discussions with Charis, so they have only just started to think about whether or not they want to invest in drones, adding that the technology can help in documenting water quality.

“In the past, we have used a helicopter, maybe next time we can look into using a drone,” said Duhuze.

Terry Segore, technical director at Charis, said the many possibilities of drone technology are making people look at their work in a different light.

“Some people in the film industry that we’ve talked to are changing their scripts because before they wouldn’t be able to get some of the shots they wanted, but now they want to use drones to do it,” said Segore.

Rutayisire agrees that drone technology is influencing creativity by broadening the way people think.