The regular use of drones in Africa has increased in the past year. From startups like Lifeblood using drones to deliver blood to Zipline using it for logistics, more and more people and businesses are using drones.
With the price of drones falling, their popularity will increase in Africa as the barrier to affordability diminishes. Drones now cost only 12,000 naira
The number of patents for drone technology grew by 34% from 7,076 in 2017 to 9,485 in 2018 – World Intellectual Property Organization
However, as the commercial deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles progresses, risks such as invasion of privacy come along. This is because drones can be flown from 5 km away while recording (and streaming) 4k images.
A recent example was during the EndSARS protest in which various drones made aerial recordings and videos of the protest.
While this ability and feature can be very useful, as it was during the protest, it can also be used to spy on and invade people’s privacy if strict laws are not put in place.
Related reading: Global Air Drone Academy is awarded $ 20,000 to help establish its training and research center in Lagos
Insufficient drone regulation
Worldwide, at least 143 countries have enacted some form of drone-related regulations. However, many experts argue that current drone regulations are insufficient to deal with the threat of widespread surveillance.
As in Africa, the use of drones is expanding all over the world. Drone startups in countries like Ukraine have led the way in testing drone delivery systems.
Surfshark research shows that lawmakers around the world are responding in different ways to the increasing use of drones. While some countries, such as Cuba, Iraq, Iran and Kuwait, have outright banned the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, others have passed legislation that allows for more experimental use of the technology.
However, the report asserts that most legislations focus on how the drone is operated and do not address nuances related to privacy.
The global drone industry is expected to double in the next five years, from $ 22.5 billion in 2020 to $ 42.8 billion by 2025.
Half of Africa has no drone laws
Surfshark reported that more than half of the countries in Africa do not have drone laws. It added that of the 24 countries that do have drone-related legislation, 21% have an absolute ban on the technology, the largest share of any continent.
Flying with drones is prohibited in 5 African countries, namely Ivory Coast, Algeria, Madagascar, Morocco and Senegal
Another 13% of countries, including Nigeria, have an effective ban on the technology, while the remaining 64% have laws that allow for full or experimental visual line of sight.
Related reading: The Lagos government unveils 5,000 drones to observe and improve waterway safety
While Ghana permits experimental visual line-of-sight flights, unauthorized use of drones in the country can carry severe penalties. According to the report, flying a drone without a permit in Ghana could lead to a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
Egypt, on the other hand, has laws allowing legal use of drones, but the report pointed out that it is very difficult to obtain.
On the bright side, the report also highlights countries like Malawi that have established drone and data academies focusing on the use of drones for humanitarian purposes.
Likewise, countries such as Rwanda and Ghana have also authorized the use of drones to fly out of line of sight to deliver medical supplies. This has reduced the delivery time from 4 hours to 20 minutes. Other African countries where drones can fly out of line of sight are Uganda and Zimbabwe.
In summary, as innovation using drones continues to grow, it is important to have rules for them. This is because the increasing popularity of drones has increased the prospect of ubiquitous surveillance by governments, companies and individuals.
With only 24 countries having drone laws in Africa, African lawmakers are struggling to keep up with advancing technology and must be proactive to support innovation, even while protecting privacy.
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