Highlights from the 2020 African Drone forum in Rwanda

The Rwandan President Paul Kagame welcomed the world to Kigali for the African Drone Forum. The event revealed some of the tremendous strides and successes witnessed across the continent in regards to drones. The conference hosted over 600 participants from over 44 countries, not forgetting the 200 youth delegates drawn across Rwanda and Africa. The 3-day symposium also welcomed 80 speakers and over 50 regulators drawn from 23 countries.

Drones in the setup of humanitarian drone corridors 

A major highlight was the humanitarian drone corridor set up in Africa. Malawi launched the continent’s first drone corridor. The humanitarian corridor relied on UAV’s to open up the country for innovation, research, delivery of medicines and vaccines. Sierra Leone was the first of its West African counterparts to open up a drone corridor, an event launched by President Julius Maada Bio alongside UNICEF’s representative. Sierra Leone was second in the continent after Rwanda to experiment on the supply of medical equipment to rural inaccessible areas. The use of drones in delivering life-saving medicines and blood is now a reality in Rwanda thanks to the California-based start-up Zipline. 

Operational services in agriculture and health

The benefits of drone technology in Rwanda extend to the agricultural sector where they are relied upon for crop mapping by farmers. The inspection of power transmission lines is also conducted by Charis UAV. A pilot project has recently been adopted to test the effectiveness of drones in mosquito spraying.

The drone industry is an African opportunity

Rwanda has adopted robust policies that promote innovation. It is possible to cater for safety and security without curtailing innovation in the regulatory framework. Rwanda strives to not just use the drones, but also expand into the manufacture of the aircraft locally. It aspires to build the right drone infrastructural network to see the advanced development of this technology.

Foster cooperation and regional integration

That way the technology can be tailored to the continent’s specific needs and promote the industry. Cross-border competitions such as the flying competition across Lake Kivu will foster regional harmonization. The can-do mindset will help in the development of the continent as a whole. 

Setting up the Right regulatory frameworks

Rwanda is the only country to register more autonomous flights than manned flights. This was only achieved after they adopted performance-based regulation that would give drone companies' access to its airspace. Regional neighbors like Tanzania are borrowing from Rwanda’s drone laws with the aim of adapting them locally.

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Highlights from the 2020 African Drone forum in Rwanda