Why Govt Should Begin Regulation Measures
People prefer efficient options in the execution of tasks or services. And over the years, technology has continued to define how people enjoy more efficient options. The quest for efficiency gave birth to the idea of using drones to execute some tasks, even in Nigeria, where the use is rising as in the other parts of the world.
From journalism to agriculture, video production, security and safety purposes, drones are being deployed for improved services or a more efficient process.
In 2014, it was claimed that Nigeria lost about N1.4 trillion to oil theft. Late last year, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu said the NNPC would be deploying drones to monitor oil pipelines across the country.
Similarly, about two years ago, Anambra State Government deployed drones for some of its activities. Although the initial claim was that the drones were deployed for security purposes, especially in smoking out kidnappers and identifying dreaded crime spots, the governor later explained the drones were meant for mapping the state, including erosion sites.
Wanting to provide cutting edge service and ensure that orders made are delivered promptly, Yudala, a shopping platform, said it would deploy drones in delivering orders placed by its customers.
And the company achieved this feat with the drone delivery of the first order placed on its Black Friday sales promo. The item, a Nokia Lumia smart phone was placed by Yetunde Lawal, a staff of Access Bank Plc, who was shopping on the Yudala platform for the first time.
The drone, according to Yudala, took off from its headquarters at Redemption Crescent, Gbagada, loaded with the product to the amazement and delight of onlookers and camera crew from various media organisations that gathered to witness the progress of the drone all the way to the Access Bank branch on Gbagada-Oshodi Expressway, where it stopped in front of the bank.
The company said a staff of Yudala was on hand to process the invoice for the order and handed over the phone to an obviously elated Yetunde, who chose the payment-on-delivery option.
Commenting on this feat, Head Corporate Communications, Yudala, Gideon Ayogu, said his organisation pioneered drone delivery in Nigeria in line with its ambition to dictate the pace and set new milestones for online and offline retail business in the country.
“As you well know, the first drone delivery was used to herald our Black Friday sales, which also turned out to be the first ever online and offline Black Friday event in the history of retail business in Nigeria. Although we are still testing the technology, we have achieved other drone deliveries since then in line with our commitment to transform the Nigerian retail landscape.”
He however, said that it is not good stories all the way as there are challenges with deploying drone, which is basically due to the absence of clearly defined regulations from the government over the use and deployment of the technology.
“Considering the huge impact it would have in boosting e-commerce, especially by circumventing the challenges associated with vehicular traffic, in Nigeria, there is an urgent need for government to support the use of this technology through clear policy and regulatory guidelines,” he advocated.
Drone is also used in video production. Many production companies now find this a better option to deploying cranes for recording. One organisation that has deployed drone for recording its productions is Oracle Experience Agency, a production and experiential marketing agency in Lagos. It has deployed drone for recording of both indoor and outdoor events.
When Nigerian Breweries launched its Ultimate Gulder Promo in Enugu, last year, at the Michael Okpara Square, Oracle Experience used drone to capture the proceedings. This was an outdoor event, but it also used drone for the recording of the final of the Peak Milk art and craft challenge tagged ‘Vision Nigeria Art Challenge’ meant for secondary schools in Lagos, which was held at the indoor sports hall of the University of Lagos.
The Chief Executive Officer, Oracle Experience Limited, Mr Felix King Eiremiokhae said his organisation ventured into using drone about two years ago, because they were looking for easier ways to do things, which the drone provides.
According to him, the positives in deploying the drone for operations are enormous. He said with the drone, the number of personnel needed for operation is far smaller, compared with the alternative of using the convectional crane.
“When you use a crane, you have to spend a lot of time doing set up, but with the drone, it is very easy and less time is spent to set up and operate. The drone is usually a one-man operation. With the drone, you get better aerial view compared with what the crane set up could cover and record. The drone can move from one section within the event location with ease, which the normal roving camera and crane cannot achieve.
“When you use the crane, there is so much activities and running around in order to get good shots but with the drone, you just need to be in a good position and you cover more grounds in terms of recording. It can cover a whole football pitch with full view, which the normal roving and crane camera cannot do.
“If I want to do a crane operation, I have to look for a truck that will carry the heavy equipment to location, but for the drone, just put it inside a briefcase and you are ready to go.”
He also said that in terms of cost, the drone is much cheaper, because with N500,000, one could get a very good quality drone.
In terms of challenge, he said it is more about being able to use the drone, when it is raining or drizzling. “The drones in Nigeria are not very weather friendly, when it is raining, you cannot fly it. If an event is going on in an outdoor location and it is drizzling, you cannot use a drone. So we need drones that are weather friendly,” he said.
He however, said his organisation is not having the challenge of regulation, because most of its productions are not within restricted areas. “If you go to a place like military zone, for instance, an Army Cantonment, nobody is going to allow you fly a drone there without permission,” The Oracle Experience boss said.
One area with huge potentials and benefits in the use of drones is the agriculture sector, but not much is seen in that area yet.
Reliable sources in Anambra State have disclosed that kidnapping and criminal acts have reduced in the state, but that cannot be linked solely to the introduction of drones for the tracking of criminal activities. A source said that security efforts are usually multifaceted therefore there are other efforts and inputs, which had helped to curb the rate of criminality in the state, while some are obvious, others are not.
Founder/CEO, Blackboy Technology, Chibuikem Ndubuisi, observed that in Nigeria, many of those using drone at present basically use them for fun purposes, whereas in developed clime, it is used in so many professional fields, for business and development purposes.
He said drone could be used for surveillance during protests to monitor the procession and the protesters’ activities. He said other uses include; land surveying, video recording, journalism as well as recording activities during a campaign by a political party.
“There are a lot of things that must be considered if citizens of a country must be using drone for different activities, especially outdoor purposes. In the US, a lot of policies are formulated to guide its use. The government should encourage more people to adopt the use of drone and begin to prepare for that era when a mass of Nigerians would be interested in its use in different fields.
“For now, since there has not been any abuse in Nigeria, there might not be worries, but invading somebody’s privacy is already a crime. So, we can work with the existing laws for now.”
Ndubuisi said Nigeria as a giant within the West Africa region and Africa should begin to take the lead by encouraging not just drone use, but also its production, which could be sold to neighbouring and other African countries.
He also felt that the Police could come in to define how far a user of a drone could go, especially since the country is grappling with insecurity. “So, those who are to use it should get proper permits, just like it is done in developed countries.
“Government should set the ball rolling on the issuing of permit for future drone users. There is also a need for proper sensitisation, because if is not used properly or gets into the hands of wrong people, it can cause a lot of damage,” said he.
Lessons from the US
IN the United States, the use of drone, also called small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS), has been segmented into three: recreational, commercial and public purposes. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, (FAA), which is the regulator of the country’s aviation industry; each of the purposes has rules that guide usage.
For recreational purposes, the drone should be registered and should not fly higher than 400 feet and to remain below any surrounding obstacles when possible with the drone in eyesight at all times, including using an observer to assist if needed. The other items listed in the guideline for the use of drone for recreational purposes are: Do not intentionally fly over unprotected persons or moving vehicles, and remain at least 25 feet away from individuals and vulnerable property; Contact the airport or control tower before flying within five miles of an airport; Fly no closer than two nautical miles from a heliport with a published instrument flight procedure; Do not fly in adverse weather conditions such as in high winds or reduced visibility; Do not fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs; Ensure the operating environment is safe and that the operator is competent and proficient in the operation of the sUAS; Do not fly near or over sensitive infrastructure or property such as power stations, water treatment facilities, correctional facilities, heavily traveled roadways, government facilities.