The president of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), Dr. Olumuyiwa Bernard Aliu, has stated that Africa and the world needs to develop a coherent regulatory framework aimed at fostering safety before embracing in totality Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) despite its numerous opportunities.
Dr. Aliu made this known while giving a speech at the ICAO RPAS Symposium and Workshop-Africa and Indian Ocean (RPAS AFI) held at Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Abuja; stressing that although there are many advantages, Africa as a continent and others must not rush into this development without due diligence and the careful regard required for existing airspace users.
According to the ICAO boss, aviation is undergoing a fundamental change in light of the widespread introduction of unmanned aircraft.
He expressed satisfaction that many businesses and endeavors were leaning towards this new opportunity but stated that with regulation, the safety and sustainability of these operations can be guaranteed.
“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 said.
“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 flip-side 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 crai and establish a well-structured and appropriate regulatory framework many states and organizations, are contributing to this process, an ICAO’s mission to ensure global harmonization of the various solutions set out is now more important than ever. ”
Dr. Aliu said that due to the increasing challenges being faced in developing drone regulations and the increasing report of close encounters between commercial air transport aircraft and drones, the 39th Assembly requested that ICAO expand its scope of work to provide a baseline of provisions to ensure global harmonization for all types of unmanned aircraft and their operations, including domestic.
He however stated that a key challenge of drones diversified applications make it a development that is needed and the sheer numbers that are being sold and sometimes to people who cannot use them well.
“The key challenge is that these unmanned aircraft are designed, developed and used for hundreds of deeply diverse applications such as recreational videotaping, humanitarian support, wildlife monitoring and cargo delivery. Not to mention new personal taxi drones or unmanned aircraft systems (or ‘UAS’) designed for the provision of Internet bandwidth in remote communities.
“Then there is the challenge of the number of these aircraft. Thousands are being sold daily at present. And again, they are deeply diverse in their characteristics and features and many are being sold to individuals who are unfamiliar with how to operate them safely and responsibly in an aviation environment. ”
The ICAO boss also emphasized the need to bring equal attention 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 outcomes of this event, will contribute knowledge and understanding to the members of the ICAO Council, its Air Navigation Commission, its Remotely piloted Aircraft Systems Panel, and to the ICAO Secretariat. The better informed they are on the current activities and the associated challenges being faced by States and stakeholders, the more effective they will be in drafting, reviewing or adopting ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices.”