The Ministry of Infrastructure has committed to support three areas that will further develop the usage of unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) commonly known as drones in public service.
Officials said that Rwanda will work on legal and regulatory framework and innovation systems, infrastructure development and capacity building in the country.
“There will be continuous improvement of the legal and regulatory framework to support innovation, without compromising aviation/public safety and security. There will be development of the required infrastructure such as the Drones Operational Center (DOC) that will facilitate innovation, research and development,” Clever Gatete, Minister of Infrastructure said.
“Last but not least, the capacity building will be supported, that will ensure literacy and awareness for the public to fully engage in the benefits of UAS technology. The government of Rwanda, through the various entities, stands ready to support the development and deployment of the UAS technology that will foster better community, fair competition and innovation,” Gatete added.
He noted that UAS operations are rapidly increasing in number, technical complexity, and sophistication.
Gatete made the observation during the closure of the unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) annual retreat conference that spanned from 15th to 17th September in Kigali city.
It convened local drone companies including Zipline, Charis and Leapr labs.
He noted that the introduction of UAS to the NAS must be done incrementally to ensure the safety of people and property both in the air and on the ground.
This year’s drone annual retreat aimed at bringing together stakeholders at the aviation sector including regulators, academia and private sector to discuss policies, educating people, financing, manufacturing and insurances.
Participants included regulators – International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), East African Community Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency (CASSOA), African Drone Forum, among others.
“We were able to discuss some of the challenges and strategies. We discussed how we can improve the policy making to enable usage of new technologies in Rwanda, as the industry, we are supposed to make sure that we have the right tools,” Melissa Rusanganwa, Head of Africa Regulatory Affairs said.
“Being responsible for solving problems in Rwanda is the main objective using technologies. We shall be working closely with the policy makers to make sure that we are sustainable and bringing in the right solution,” she added.
Rusanganwa said that setting up regulations in Rwanda has been done in the past years with the first regulations established in 2016.
“It was a performance-based regulation in 2016, that had already supported the sustainability of drone operations in Rwanda. I think, with these discussions, there is a high possibility to enable changes, for us to scale up the industry,” he added.
In the same conference, the Minister of Information Communication, Technology and Innovation MINICT) Paula Ingabire announced that a drone academy worth Rwf 6 Billion will be constructed to solve a challenge of having a shortage of drone experts in the country.
“The plan is training as many people as possible in using drones in several sectors including Health, Agriculture and others. So far, people who are skilled are few, not in Rwanda only but also in other countries that have been using drones for a long time,” Ingabire said.
“We need many local experts that can manufacture, repair and use drones. These are challenges the academy will solve, we have finished the study for its establishment. Currently, we are looking for partners and in the near future, the construction will start.”