Teddy Segore is a happy young man; and lucky too. After completing his Electrical Engineering studies at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) early last year, he joined CHARIS, the first locally owned Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (drone) company in Rwanda.
Little did he know that he was on his way to becoming the first licensed drone pilot in the country.
Last month, he received a Basic National Unmanned Certificate (BNUC) from Euro USC International in London, a company that specializes in certifying pilots all over the world.
When he joined at CHARIS at the beginning of last year, Segore was content just learning the basics –how drones technology works and its maintenance. At CHARIS he met Rutayisire Eric Muziga, the founder and CEO. Rutayisire holds a Masters of Electrical Engineering from the University of Minnesota in the US where he was first been introduced to drones.
Upon completing university, he returned to Rwanda and teamed up with two like-minded people; his sister, Ingabire Muziga Mamy, and Segore Teddy.
“Eric is my childhood friend, and so when he returned from the US and approached me with the idea of starting a drone company, I took it up immediately because I was doing Electrical Engineering at KIST as well,” explained Segore.
The experience turned out to be priceless.
“I could now delve into the more practical aspects of engineering to compliment the theory I learnt from school”.
The company does not just buy drones abroad for resale in Rwanda, it comes up with a basic concept, its technicians make calculations as to the specifications of the drone needed for a particular task. It then procures the requisite components based on that. They then do system integration, where partners who supply individual drone parts like motors and propellers are sought.
Segore explained that the company procures parts from different suppliers which are then assembled at the company’s workshop in Kacyiru.
When Segore joined the company at the beginning of last year, there was little regulation of the sector in place. If anything, CHARIS had just been established in 2014 as the first local drone company in the country.
“Before these new regulations, one just needed to know a few things about the drone. like how to take it up and how to hover, just the practical things. You had a remote to use,” he explains, adding;
“But the new regulations came in force this year, a drone is no longer seen as a toy. We now understand that drones are not toys, they are aircrafts. If they are seen as aircraft then they should be treated as aircraft. From that perspective piloting an Unmanned Aerial Aircraft does not seem like a game. It’s very serious.”
As a drone pilot, Segore had to learn what conventional pilots do.
“You have to ensure that the aircraft is in good shape before it flies, you have to do the checklists, air rules, knowing the weather, reading maps … everything really.”
He is of the view that the new regulations from the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority, the body charged with licensing and regulating players in the drone sector are not deterrents but a good boost to their operations;
“The reason the regulations were put in place is not to make our work difficult but to make it safe, which is one of the things that we put at the forefront of the company –the safety of the operation. So the regulations were like a good challenge.
We had to come up with a number of things like obtaining the pilot’s license because of the regulations which will really make our work safer and more professional. The regulations coming up helped us to take a step forward and even think beyond and see our advantages and how to utilize them,” he noted.
At CHARIS, his job description is Technical Director and Pilot, basically in charge of everything to do with piloting and maintaining the aircraft to ensure that it’s well and working before takeoff.
He reveals that getting the certificate wasn’t day’s work.
“It was more than two years of working and getting experience and practicing on different aircraft and there was also the theoretical part which we had to learn.
I had a written exam at the beginning of September, but like I said, it was after a long preparation because there were books and manuals to read and you can’t do that in two days.
Segore then pulls out his flight examination report. Most of his answers are correct. In fact, he has only two wrong entries. His scorecard is an impressive 87 percent –meaning he passed in flying colors. To pass the test, one needed to have a minimum fifteen wrong answers. He had only two.
“It was CHARIS’s initiative looking at the needs at the time. We had to be certified to be able to operate as a drone company in Rwanda following the new rules and regulations from the Civil Aviation Authority,” he explained.
“The first thing is that we want to work hand in hand with the CAA and make sure that whatever they are requesting we have it. That’s why the initiative was taken for me to be sent for this course and the company paid a lot of money for it. It was expensive because it required a lot but it was worth it because it was needed”.
His satisfaction derives from “knowing that I passed was the first joy because I wouldn’t have travelled more than twelve hours to go to Europe and fail. Second was to know that ours is the only local company in the county with a certified drone pilot.
My first impression was that the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle market in Europe is really advanced, even the type of aircraft used. It was my first time to see an aircraft that was beyond twenty kilos. I used to read about them in books but now I could see them and it was a good experience.
The industry is really regulated there, which really opened up my mind to see it that way so that when someone talks about a drone today, I don’t see it as a toy but as a real aircraft because it is dangerous as well, it can cause damage if not well operated.
From that perspective it’s much more developed over there and this is what we’re trying to bring here,” Segore said.
The rules are simple and aimed at ensuring safety and security in the operation of drones. For instance, you can’t just fly your UAV over someone’s house without their express permission. There are also restrictions on the tonnage of drone one can acquire for home use, with drones weighing above a certain weight not permitted for domestic use.
In Europe for instance, there are now drones that weigh as much as 150 kgs and these are usually reserved for larger commercial scale use in a larger flying radius.
For his part, Teddy Segore’s certificate only permits him to fly drones of not heavier than 20 kgs.
Under the new Civil Aviation Authority rules and guidelines, people who acquire UAVs have to register them with the body, although this is not an automatic license to operate.