The Federal Government has said it will set up a committee whose mandate will be to maximize drones operations and mitigate against associated risk in the country.
The committee will be made up of relevant stakeholders like aviators, regulatory bodies, the military, security agencies, airspace managers, manufacturers, among others, whose primary mandate will be to ensure the new technology fits into the conventional aviation business without clashes.
The Minister of state, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, made this known while speaking in Abuja at the opening of a two-day symposium on Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) otherwise known as drones, organized by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the Aviation Ministry.
“Consequently, the Government through Civil Aviation Authority is establishing a remotely piloted Aircraft Safety Team that will include a wide variety of stakeholders in the aviation industry.
“We need to incorporate Remotely Piloted Aircraft and their users into our culture of safety and responsibility. But we need to do it in a way that doesn’t stifle the enthusiasm for this growing industry,” the minister said.
Sirika said drone technology has opened a new vista in global air transport sector, pointing out that the challenges in Africa and the world centre largely on safety and security.
According to him, the growth of drones was remarkable as revenue from the new technology, according to industry forecast, is expected to hit $1 billion dollars in revenues and about 4 million units sold between 2017 and 2018.
“This potential is attracting some of the best minds in technology and manufacturing, and the devices they are creating have practically limitless uses. Drones are transforming industries like agriculture, film making, real estate and creating countless new jobs and economic opportunities.
“Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are tackling jobs that can be dangerous for people or other aircraft to do such as it is in the oil and gas sector in Nigeria.
“Just last week somewhere in the United States, two people were killed in two different accidents involving crop dusters exactly the type of job a small Remotely Piloted Aircraft could do with much less risk to people and property on the ground. These are just a few examples of the potentials that RPAS have to change our world for the better. There are countless others” Sirika stated.
The Minister said the Remotely Piloted aircraft industry was moving at the speed of the software industry around the world, adding that the government was working hard to integrate Remotely Piloted Aircraft operations into the nation’s airspace as quickly and as efficiently as possible and therefore close collaboration will be essential to continued progress on RPAS.
“Supporting these innovations while maintaining safety is our top priorities at the Federal Ministry of Transportation (Aviation Sector)”, he noted.
Speaking at the event, ICAO President, Olumuyiwa Aliu said the major issue with popularising the use of drones was to first ascertain how to maintain a delicate balance between safety and security with efficiency and services of the new technology.
“The onus falls on the regulators,” he said. A strong regulatory framework needs to be developed and ICAO is concerned about global harmonisation.
“We need to develop manpower to handle them. This symposium is important because the experts are here and the deliberation here will be useful to ICAO”, Aliu stated.
Stella Enenche, Abuja