In recent times, there has been a steady rise in autonomous vehicles in Africa, both in military applications as well as in the civilian sector. While Nigeria has placed an outright ban on the use of civilian and commercial drone technology, forward-thinking countries like Rwanda have been utilizing the technology for improving their healthcare delivery sector. Zipline, the world’s first commercial regular drone delivery service for the Rwandan health service has been delivering urgent medicines and main blood to 19 hospitals. Zipline currently distributes up to 40 essential medical supplies. Zipline blood delivery has reduced mortality and life-threatening conditions significantly, especially in remote Rwanda where would have taken over 4 hours for a car to reach. The term drone or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) should not be confused with hobbyist remote control (RC) aircraft which are inferior in terms of capability.
The decision of the Nigerian government to prohibit the use of drones in Nigeria is equivalent to shooting one’s foot with own gun. As countries across the globe scramble to build self-reliance in the area of innovative technologies, coupled with the Nigerian government’s focus on diversifying the economy, drone technology offers an explosive growth in the moribund aerospace industry since various tech start-ups and companies would directly contribute to the design, development, and sales of the various components and sub-system required for drone assembly, maintenance, and operations. This initiative would provide essential jobs for several thousand technologists and also prevent capital flight and brain-drain in the aerospace sector, in view of the fact that much-needed funds would be kept within the country.
Granted, in the wrong hands, drone technology can be used for criminal activities as seen in the recent Dublin Airport drone attacks. In the episode, Dublin Airport officials were forced to suspend all flights due to a drone sighting over an airfield, the incident lasted more than three days.