The Minister of State for Aviation, Sen, Hadi Sirika says Nigeria is ready to benefit from economic opportunities of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) popularly known as Drones.
Sirika disclosed this at the RPAS Symposium organised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Transportation in Abuja on Monday.
He said that the industry projects that total drone sales would reach new heights in 2017 and 2018, with a billion dollars in revenues and about four million units sold.
According to him, this potential is attracting some of the best minds in technology and manufacturing, and the devices they are creating have practically limitless uses.
“Drones are transforming industries like agriculture, film making, real estate and creating countless new jobs and economic opportunities.
“Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are tackling jobs that can be dangerous for people or other aircraft to do such as it is in the oil and gas sector in Nigeria.
“Remotely Piloted Aircraft have sparked excitement among hobbyist and manufacturers are stepping up to meet this interest and the industry is moving at the speed of the software industry around the world.
“As we now know aviation has for long been one of the greatest priorities of the present administration.
“We are therefore, working hard to integrate RPAS operations into our airspace as quickly and as efficiently as possible and therefore close collaboration will be essential to continued progress on RPAS.
“Supporting these innovations while maintaining safety is our top priority at the Federal Ministry of Transportation (Aviation Sector),’’ he said.
The minister said aviation was gradually moving away from traditional system of pilots flying jet liners from one destination to another to an emerging RPAS.
He said that Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had the responsibility to ensure the safety of Nigerian airspace being the most complex and busiest airspace in west and central Africa for public use.
According to him, the authority needs to incorporate RPA and their users into the Nigerian culture of safety and responsibility in a way that does not stifle the enthusiasm for this growing industry.
“The best way to accomplish this is to partner with a wide range of stakeholders, government, aviation regulators and manufacturers.
“While valuable inputs on regulations are being received from stakeholders and building consensus through public sensitisation, the government is making substantial progress in integrating RPAS into Nigerian Airspace structure,’’ he said.
Sirika said that the Federal Government through NCAA had established Remotely Piloted Aircraft Safety Team that would include a wide variety of stakeholders in the aviation industry.
He said the group would analyse safety data developed to identify emerging threats that RPAS may pose to aircraft, people, and property.
According to him, they will also develop mitigation strategies to address these threats and prevent future accidents.
“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.
“The Team will help to develop recommendations that will assist the government to create RPAS registration system in the shortest possible time.
“The registration will help connect RPAS with its operator in cases where people are not complying with rules and guidelines,’’ he said.