There is need for a universal regulation to ensure that widespread usage of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or drones is aligned to the international core aviation principles for efficient share of space with airplanes.
Experts made the call on Tuesday in Kigali during the opening of a three-day workshop on RPAS on the challenges faced when incorporating drones in the daily activities by aviation regulators, air navigation service providers and operators, and how to tackle such challenges.
It also aimed at providing guidance and imparting skills on how drone technology can be employed in a safe and secure manner, thus avoiding accidents and incidents that can lead to loss of life and property or be used in unscrupulous ways, according to officials.
It was organised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, Eastern and South African Office (ICAO ESAF) and brings together over 60 participants, including aviation officers from about 14 Eastern and Southern African countries, and Niger.
Speaking at the launch of the workshop, the state minister for Transport, Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye, said there is need for harmonised regulation given the growth of aviation industry and the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems.
“Drones have evolved in technology and usage. They were initially used only in military circles, but today, they are in frequent use. They are being used for social, medical and business purposes,” Uwihanganye noted.
Uwihanganye told participants that since 2016, every Remotely Piloted Aircraft entering the country is registered and on condition that their users must be qualified, stressing that this has streamlined the use of drones in social and economic spheres.
“Rwanda is home to Africa’s first drone port and drones are being used to save lives by making timely blood deliveries to hospitals across the country. Private companies are also using drones in scientific research, aerial surveillance, land surveying, construction, agriculture monitoring, among others,” the minister said.
According Barry Kashambo, the ICAO regional Director Eastern and Southern Africa, there is need to see how drones can be safely operated.
“As we talk now, there are millions and millions of drones being manufactured, very soon we shall have more drones in the air than normal airplanes, it therefore important to equip players with skills, and provide them with regulatory framework,” he said.
Puleng Morojele, from Lesotho civil aviation authority, said the training was an opportunity to learn how to operate drones in a safer way and making them more productive.