As Rwanda positions itself as a proof-of-concept hub for drone operations, the Minister of ICT and Innovation, Paula Ingabire, has emphasised the need to attract anchor players in the drone industry, considering factors such as regulatory support, incentives, technology pipeline, talent, and market demand. ALSO READ: Rwanda first African country to fully integrate drone technology in fighting malaria She was speaking during an event called “Unlocking Opportunities: Advancing Rwanda’s Drone Ecosystem” on November 29 at the Kigali Serena Hotel. The event brought together industry leaders, experts, academia, and other partners to discuss the current state and future of the drone sector in Rwanda and beyond. As we position ourselves to be one proof-of-concept hub, our vision to be a proof-of-concept hub has anchored itself around even having a company like Zipline that started here and has been able to expand out of Rwanda, Ingabire said. ALSO READ: Delivery drones: Why Zipline is switching to 24/7 operations Rwanda’s Emerging Technology Strategy has identified the drone sector as a pivotal area for development and growth, presenting the potential for various sectors, including healthcare, agriculture, and infrastructure, among others. Ingabire highlighted the global growth of the drone industry, driven by technological advancements and regulatory support, with a projected compound annual growth rate of 27 per cent. Asia leads in drone market growth, followed by the Middle East and Africa, suggesting the potential for faster growth in the regions. ALSO READ: Rwanda to deploy drones in fighting environmental crimes Ingabire mentioned India's ambitions to become a global drone hub by 2030, focusing on local manufacturing, integrated drone ecosystems, and research and development investments, and encouraged learning from the country to build a thriving drone ecosystem in Rwanda. She stressed the importance of safety and regulations in the development of the drone ecosystem Drone Operation Centre could start operating next year Dr Rene Kabarisa, the director of Drone Operation Centre, said it could start operations next year. He highlighted that the Rwf12 billion project aims to create a state-of-the-art Huye infrastructure whose mission includes nurturing the drone ecosystem and becoming a regional hub for the drone industry. ALSO READ: Govt to set up drones operation centre Kabarisa outlined the envisioned features of the Drone Operation Centre, such as being a safe testing ground for drones, a business incubation space, an innovation centre, and a co-working space. The centre will also accommodate drone manufacturing, testing, training, research and development activities and provide space for recreational and hobbyist activities where inexperienced people can fly drones in a safer environment, according to MINICT. Jean Claude Tuyisenge, the Managing Director of New Generation Academy, a school specialising in coding and robotics, highlighted the significance of the Drone Operation Centre in addressing challenges within the drone sector. “We were operating without sufficient frameworks, facing challenges, particularly in terms of drone regulations, their operation, and usage. With the Drone Operation Centre, navigating these issues becomes more manageable. It allows us to amplify our collective voice, facilitating communication with officials and regulators,” he said. Tuyisenge also highlighted the centre's ability to position coding and robotics schools as key contributors to the field, adding that the school he represents plans to introduce a unique initiative, involving children playing football using drones, with the centre playing a crucial role in the training process. He urged to establish more centres nationwide, providing spaces for drone testing and called for the relaxation of stringent regulations that could potentially hinder research and innovation in the field. Ensuring security and privacy in drone operations Winnie Ngamije, the Deputy Director General of the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA), emphasised the institution's commitment to ensuring compliance among all drone operators, noting that all operators are required to submit a letter of consent from the intended capture location, along with approvals from local authorities. This, she explained, ensures transparency regarding the drone's presence and guarantees that the captured data adheres to legal standards. ALSO READ: You want to fly a drone in Rwanda? Here's what you're required to do Ngamije highlighted the ongoing initiatives in technology integration, citing the development of an Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system and real-time awareness tools. An example is a system developed by Zipline, which enhances safety and security by tracking drones in the airspace. She further stressed the importance of public awareness initiatives to educate the public about regulations and the responsibilities of drone operators.