Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also commonly referred to as remotely-piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) or drones, are aircraft that carry no human pilot or passengers, and are controlled remotely by human operators or autonomously by onboard computers.
These autonomous flying machines are growing smarter, faster, and more versatile with each passing year, and advancements in UAV technology have opened up a whole new set of applications ranging from surveys to security surveillance, traffic monitoring, parcel delivery services and aerial photography.
As the world continues to find more unique and efficient ways to utilize UAVs, it is important for forward-thinking nations to take advantage of these advanced technologies which are on offer, and use them to solve challenges.
The biggest challenge facing the successful adoption of UAVs is integration with existing aviation systems. UAVs are not built like normal manned aircraft, and so they do not have the standard communication features which are used in identifying, tracking and locating aircraft.
In order to allow the use of UAVs in a country’s airspace, it is important to put adequate regulations in place to guide UAV operators and keep the airspace safe.
While very few countries around the world have created regulations for UAVs, the Nigerian Government has taken bold steps to face the issue of integration by developing an initial set of guidelines for UAV usage.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recently held a symposium on remotely-piloted aircraft systems(for Africa and the Indian Ocean region) in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, and there were some key discussions on how best to handle the introduction of UAVs into the Nigerian airspace and those of other African countries.
As a technology-focused company with expertise in UAV technology, RusselSmith was adequately represented at the event.
The discussions at the ICAO symposium included regulatory frameworks, security and the need for some level of standardization in drone manufacturing. One area of concern was the risk of over-regulating the use of RPAS and making it difficult for operators to qualify for drone ownership or to comply with guidelines.
During the symposium, the Minister of State on Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, reiterated his ministry’s commitment towards ensuring that remotely-piloted aircraft are regulated in an operator-friendly manner, to allow Nigeria to reap the full benefits of the technology while ensuring the safety and security of other users of the country’s airspace and citizens in general.
The commitment shown by Nigerian aviation stakeholders such as the NCAA and others towards UAV technology adoption shows that as a nation, we do not plan to take the back seat in innovation where UAVs are concerned. With the development of better regulations and conformance to these regulations, we expect to see greater advances and more beneficial uses of drones as time goes by.
RusselSmith’s UAV services include aerial inspection of oil and gas assets, pipeline surveillance, aerial mapping and GIS, aerial assessments of power generation and transmission infrastructure, accident and traffic monitoring.