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Drone technology serving society

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Drone technology serving society

The African drone industry is experiencing a significant transformation, with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, being deployed to address various socio-economic and environmental challenges.

Overview of the African drone market

Using drones in Africa has expanded beyond mere surveillance, driven by their features tailored to local needs. As of 2023, the drone market in Africa is valued at 3.5 billion USD, and it is projected to reach 4.94 billion USD by 2028. The industry’s growth is fueled by increasing awareness of its diverse benefits for commercial and non-commercial applications.

Simon Robinson, the director of Mediatech Africa, a biennial event on advanced media and entertainment technologies, underscores the value of drones across various economic sectors, including agriculture, healthcare, and logistics.

Drones have proven practical for peaceful missions such as monitoring wildlife reserves to combat poaching. These devices offer an efficient logistical alternative for supply distribution in areas with deficient road infrastructure. Notably, Africa accounts for 32 % of worldwide UAV deliveries in the first half of 2023, showcasing the growing significance of the commercial drone market in the region. Investing in this technology could significantly contribute to regional development, overcoming infrastructure-related obstacles.

Pioneer countries in the drone industry

The African drone industry has witnessed the emergence of several local companies, such as the Nigerian company Drone Africa Service, which specializes in civilian drones for aerial photography and other services. Additionally, the Kenyan air freight company Astral Aerial offers a diverse range of services related to drones.

Cameroon : Hub of young talents

Cameroon stands out for the emergence of young talents in the drone industry. At just 25 years old, William Elong is a pioneer in UAV construction in the country. The entrepreneur aspires to see his Cameroon-manufactured devices used globally.

Another young Cameroonian, Borel Taguia, is making a mark with his startup, Tagus Drone, which is gearing up to build its first factory in Cameroon. Specializing in manufacturing and marketing solar-powered UAVs, the company is raising a second fund of 400 million FCFA, approximately 663,000 USD.

Morocco : Atlan space

Led by the Moroccan startup Smart Life Innovation, the Atlan Space project proposes a surveillance solution using AI-controlled drones. This intelligent system was designed to combat illegal fishing and hydrocarbon spills and won the African Entrepreneurship Award for Innovation in 2017.

Rwanda : Drones for blood delivery

Rwanda is making significant strides in the drone industry, with Charis Unmanned Aerial Solution being notable. The company collaborates with the Ministry of Health to deploy these devices to combat malaria and partners with the government to map wetland areas. The Rwandan government collaborates with Silicon Valley company Zipline for a healthcare project. Their devices deliver blood pouches to hospitals and health centers in hard-to-reach rural areas.

It is crucial to note that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 287,000 women globally died in 2020 from largely preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Approximately 202,000 of these deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. Delays are attributed to the challenges of transporting blood pouches to patients due to deficient roads and long distances.

Significant advances in the drone industry

Optimal geolocation and coding

Drones offer remarkable flexibility, providing access to challenging spaces. Their automation reduces human errors, ensuring sharp and precise image captures while minimizing potential environmental damage. It is an effective means to collect environmental and geographical data, thereby improving mapping and territory analysis.

Environmental drones collect and analyze data to produce air quality maps. Their use also reduces the time needed for data collection for companies working on Big Data and Machine Learning. In Africa, companies like Map Action in Mali utilize this technology for geolocation, mapping, and environmental monitoring.

Indispensable ally for agritech

Drones are crucial in modernizing African agriculture, offering efficiency, precision, and reliability at a lower cost. These devices allow farmers to monitor their fields, optimize yields, and take rapid actions such as insecticide spraying or irrigation. Companies like Zenvus in Nigeria use electronic sensors and drones to collect soil data and monitor crop conditions, enhancing decision-making and increasing agricultural production.

Drone regulation outlook

It is worth noting that regulating aerial data is crucial to ensure privacy protection and drone security. Currently, regulations governing drone use in Africa vary from one nation to another. For instance, countries in North Africa face more restrictions, as seen in Morocco, Algeria, and Egypt.

Conversely, drone use is permitted with permission in other countries like Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, and Botswana. East Africa is making the means available in the aerial surveillance program thanks to the Rwandan space industry valued at 400 billion USD.

Harmonizing these regulations is essential to facilitate operators’ movements and stimulate the socio-economic development of the drone industry on the continent.

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