By Ben Roberts
Published January 25, 2018
Rwanda has already carried out more than 1 400 successful blood deliveries using drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to almost half of the country’s blood transfusion centres.
By January 2018, the Tanzanian government is set to begin delivery of medical supplies in various parts of the country using drones. This will play a major role in curbing the spread of diseases in remote areas, where trucks take longer to reach due to difficult terrain and inadequate transport infrastructure.
While Malawi is using drones to transfer HIV tests to and from rural parts of the country and Morocco is applying the technology to monitor illegal maritime activity, Uganda is allowing drone testing to be conducted in its airspace.
Tech entrepreneurs have been developing drone technology to aid relief, carry out agricultural surveys and assist in e-commerce in Kenya.
Yes, drone technology has for a long time been used by governments for activities such as manning military grounds and spying.
The technology has been increasingly used for aerial photography in film and journalism or for shipping and delivery of materials. It has also been used to gather information during disasters or help geographic mapping of inaccessible terrains.
In fact, projections are that airspaces worldwide could be filled with flying mini robots as the number of commercial UAVs taking to the skies reaches an estimated 620 000 by 2022. Driven by huge usage in the US and China, the commercial market for drones is expected to hit US$15 Billion globally in the next four years.
Though drone usage holds great potential for many African countries, the technology has faced its fair share of criticism due to unregulated usage and privacy concerns in many African countries. Kenya, for instance, has introduced new laws to govern drones. The regulations were published on October 6, 2017 in a special issue of the Kenya Gazette Supplement number 155. Legislative Supplement number 78 to the Civil Aviation Act, The Civil Aviation (Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems) Regulations 2017 is generating lots of heat in the East African country, particularly among moviemakers who criticise the government for what they see as its attempt to prevent them from using drones in filmmaking through exorbitant licensing fees and bureaucratic red tape.
Liquid Telecom produce the first ever live outside broadcast of the Kenya national rally championship using wi-fi and drone technology in 2016. With a bird’s eye view from a drone following the rally cars, Liquid Telecom live streamed on YouTube from a remote rural area on the shores of Lake Elementaita near Nakuru in the Rift Valley part of Kenya.
By global standards, use of drones and internet of things (IoT) for collection of data can be much cheaper than traditional types of aerial survey.
Many African countries have already embarked on their IoT journey: intelligent traffic lights in Nairobi are helping to ease traffic congestion, load-limiting smart meters are helping to combat outages in South Africa, while drone technology is being used as part of conservation efforts in national parks. Eventually, IoT is becoming an opportunity that businesses in Africa cannot afford to ignore.
This article, by Ben Roberts, Chief Technical and Innovation Officer at Liquid Telecom,is edited. It was first published in Liquid Newsletter, January 2018.