For decades, policy makers in developed economies have acknowledged the importance of technology to development. Economies that are more secure, prosperous, and indubitably sovereign tend to rank higher on the existing indicators that emphasize technological advancement.
Contemporarily, hegemony of nations and continents over one another is a reflections of the foregoing submission thus African economies-contending with basic socio-economic challenges and poor infrastructure-are often at the mercy of the economies with industrial and technological advancement.
Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) popularly known as ‘drone’-a technology which comes with high cost-promises African nations solutions to poor health delivery, e-commerce, safety and security. Currently, the drone global market is estimated at about $120million is expected to increase to as much as $120 billion by year 2020.
Goldman Sachs Research expects businesses and civil governments to spend $13 billion on drones by 2020, putting thousands of them in the sky. United States (US) currently has several classified and unclassified drone bases in African countries including Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Niger, South Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya among others. Success of drone service in health sectors of countries like Rwanda and Malawi are obvious.
Countries with poor infrastructure especially road and health, now leverage on drone deliveries. Rwanda has implemented one of the first widespread programs of medical drone delivery. During the rainy season, many of Rwanda’s roads are wiped way and getting health services in an emergency can take hours because of the country’s hilly terrain. Drone enables high-speed delivery system.
As a new method of data collection platform, UAS technology complements existing techniques by fitting in the gap between the large-area imaging by satellite and manned aircraft and smaller coverage, time-consuming, but highly accurate terrestrial approaches.
While African governments have not been able to pursue military drone projects of their own because of resource scarcity and institutional deficiency, advanced countries are now prosecuting war against terrorism using drone and so, this reduces the number of soldiers that are sent to battlefields. In return, it reduces the level of supreme price the soldiers have to pay in the event of ambush by the terrorists.
By and large, Africa has proven a robust and growing market for the UAS industry, favorable regulatory environment must be established now by the governments to curb the undesired effects as a result of misuse, at least to safeguard the less privileged countries from over exploitation by the advanced nations. There are serious privacy concerns with unregulated drone use in the hands of hobbyists and criminals. Drone can be weaponised to attack people and drop bombs.
African nations must make registration of UAS mandatory and drone should not be allowed to fly in populated and urban areas. Like an US regulation, drone should be operated in African countries only within visual line of sight and under 120 meters, establishing no-fly zones around airports, critical infrastructures, sports arena and large gathering.