The Minister of State for Aviation Hadi Sirika says full regulation of drones is imminent, with a possible clampdown on the unlicensed use of them.
Although drones are being used globally to fight terrorism, deliver medical care and other good causes, they also pose a security risk as they can deliver deadly light weight bombs.
Sirika spoke in Abuja on the sidelines of the three-day symposium on remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
“We cannot afford to allow drones to continue roam about our airspace uncontrolled and unregulated. We will for sure regulate but we will not kill the enthusiasm of lobbyists and other users of drones, we will only regulate and make sure that we are safe and secured,” Sirika said.
The event, will provide a unique opportunity for States, international organizations and stakeholders to share experiences in addressing RPAS operations across the African continent and Indian Ocean focusing on challenges to be overcome and benefits to be obtained, identifying how existing rules need to evolve to facilitate entrance of the RPAS community into the civil aviation system, examining alignment between ongoing RPAS development and supporting regulatory provisions.
He said “while valuable inputs on regulations are being received from stakeholders and building concensus through public sensitization, the Government is making substantial progress in integrating RPAS into Nigerian Airspace structure. The creation of the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Safety Team reflects the importance of this issue to the Government, and the value of collaboration with stakeholders.”
According to him, the “Team will help to develop recommendations that will assist the government to create RPAS registration system in the shortest possible time. While the registration will help connect RPAS with its operator in cases where people are not complying with rules and guidelines. It also gives us a valuable opportunity to educate users on how to operate their Remotely Piloted Aircraft safely.”
Earlier in his address, the ICAO President Olumuyiwa Aliu said, “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 noted that “in Africa and throughout the world, we are already seeing new businesses and humanitarian operations leveraging these technologies and the opportunities they offer. This is occurring in ways that we had not envisioned even just a decade ago, and this evolution and innovation will doubtless continue as more and more people allow their imaginations to take off, literally and figuratively.”
“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 crate and establish a well-structured and appropriate regulatory framework,” he said.