The Federal Government yesterday said it would develop regulations for the operation of drone systems in Nigeria.
The regulations to be set up would ensure safe and efficient air space for stakeholders, people and members of the public.
The Federal Government also said it will rake in $1billion from the sale of drone by 2018.
This was disclosed in Abuja on Monday by the Minister of State for Aviation, Hadi Sirika during a symposium organized by the International Civil Aviation Organisation on Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS)’.
The Minister also said a team would be set up a team to monitor and regulate the operations of drones to avoid abuse.
Sirika said: “The intent of the symposium is to ensure that we have interacted enough and shared ideas on how to keep the airspace safe and efficient. We are continuing to dialogue and interact with stakeholders worldwide so that we can get it right.
“Drones are transforming industries like agriculture, film making, real estate and creating countless new jobs and economic opportunities. They are also 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”.
On the regulation to ensure smooth operation of the innovation, he said: “We are working hard to integrate RPA operations into our airspace as quickly and as efficiently as possible. We need to incorporate RPA 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.
“While valuable inputs on regulations are being received from stakeholders and building consensus through public sensitization, the Government is making substantial progress in integrating RPAS into Nigerian Airspace structure.”
Speaking on the economic potential of the use of drones and the team to be established, the minister said: “Industry forecast expect that total drone sales will reach new heights in 2017/2018, with a billion dollars in revenues and about 4 million units sold.
“The Government through Civil Aviation Authority is establishing a RPA Safety Team that will include a wide variety of stakeholders in the aviation industry. The team will analyze safety data developed, to identify emerging threats that RPAS may pose to aircraft, people, and property.
“They will also develop mitigation strategies to address these threats and prevent future accidents. The Team will help to develop recommendations that will assist the government to create RPAS registration system in the shortest possible time.
“The registration is expected to help connect RPAS with its operator in cases where people fail to comply with rules and guidelines.”
He further disclosed that the availability and easy registration of purchased drones by individuals would be as it done in the United States, he said: “I want to draw the attention of Nigerians and plead with them that our system, tradition, values and culture is really different from that of the US.
“There is no gun control in the US, everybody can hold a gun and protect himself there but that is not the case in Nigeria because we are different people with different values and standards. So also, we cannot afford to allow drones to continue to roam about our airspace uncontrolled and unregulated.
“They will for sure be regulated but we will not stifle the enthusiasm of hobbyists and other users of drones, we will only regulate and make sure that we are safe and secured.
“Drones can carry a kilogram or two weight, so it can be used to carry bombs or unwanted materials around to areas that would cause disaster and harm. So, that cannot be allowed in Nigeria and that is why we need to regulate them but the regulation would be easy, friendly, safe and secured for everybody”.
Also speaking, the President of the Council of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Dr. Olumuyiwa Aliu said the new innovation would only succeed if proper regulations are set.
He said all over the world, new businesses and humanitarian operations leverage on the innovation and the opportunities they offer.
He said: “The flipside of this dynamic growth in opportunity is the challenge of balancing safety and security with efficiency and sustainability. This is particularly the case with regards to the existing manned aviation environment.
“The onus of succeeding in this challenge obviously falls on the shoulders of regulators, who must work to create and establish a well-structured and appropriate regulatory framework.
“A key challenge we are facing is that these unmanned aircraft are designed, developed and used for hundreds of diverse applications such as recreational videotaping, humanitarian support, wildlife monitoring and cargo delivery.
“African States, like States in other regions, are facing increasing pressure to open the door widely for unmanned aircraft. But while their socio-economic benefits seem clear, we must avoid the tendency to rush headlong into unmanned aircraft systems operational frameworks which have not benefitted from all due diligence and the careful regard required for existing airspace users.”
He added that attention should also be given to the development of a coherent regulatory framework in which all stakeholders understand their roles and responsibilities for ensuring safe operations whether manned or unmanned.
The Secretary General, African Civil Aviation Commission, Iyabo Sosina while urging the continent to take advantage of the opportunities available with the introduction of drones into the aviation industry added that they may pose risk to aviation and security sector.
Sosina said: “Drones are being used in various fields like the military, for medical purposes, photography, air transportation and others but uncontrolled RPAS operation may create risk to security and civil aviation.
“The essence of the workshop is to develop safe regulations for the operation of RPAS in the airspace and stakeholders should not see drones as a threat but rather, it should be treated as a new aircraft which requires regulations.”