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Civil aviation authority, ONSA to harmonise drone regulations

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Director-General of the NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu


The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has said that work is ongoing with the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and other stakeholders to birth standard safety regulations for drone operations in the country.

Director General of the apex regulatory body, Capt. Musa Nuhu, said the much-awaited regulations and approvals were delayed, given the safety and security matters involved.

Nuhu, who spoke at the Airport Business Summit on Cargo, Aero Logistics and Drone Technology Expo in Lagos, said the huge demand for drones and the pace of development of the market, both recreational and commercial, is incredibly fast and so needs a strong regulatory framework to ensure safety and security.

He said the NCAA and ONSA were on the same page in trying to collaborate with government and other stakeholders to get key security issues resolved and mitigate risks to national security and public safety posed by people who are not playing by the rules

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He noted that Nigeria is fast aligning with the global demand for drones, and the equipment are now used to monitor climate change, goods delivery, search and rescue operations, filming agricultural surveillance and so on.

“Drones are now referred to as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs). Though originally developed for the military and airspace industries, they have, however, found their way into the mainstream because of the enhanced level of safety and efficiency they bring.

“Drone has a long and established history that dates back to centuries, but presently, there is a paradigm shift. Their original use was as a weapon in the form of remotely-guided aerial missile deployers. However, today’s drones have found a wide range of applications for civilian use. Its essence can be described in one word – versatility.

“Currently, there is a huge demand for drones. But there is a need for regulation of this vastly versatile technology and regulations will create a level playing field for RPAS/UAV operators and will address registration, owners and operators security approvals.

“The NCAA and ONSA are on the same page in the aspect of security, which is key to the Nigerian airspace. Our goal for unmanned aircraft remains complete and total integration Safety and security are shared responsibility for stakeholders and UAV operators.

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“I have no doubt that the current legal framework and collaboration with operators, stakeholders and ONSA will provide a robust structure and system for the regulation of drone operation and its structured growth in Nigeria,” Nuhu said.

Commissioner of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) Nigeria, Akin Olateru, also acknowledged the vast utility of drones in investigation accidents.

Olateru said the drone regulations rarely separate between commercial drone operators and non-commercial recreational operators.

“The implication is that a government agency like the AIB cannot operate its drones at accident sites in close proximity (five miles) to the airport areas, which are tagged as no-fly zones unless cleared on a case-by-case basis by the ONSA and the NCAA.

“Obtaining the needed clearances upon occurrence of an accident would take longer than desired time and keeping in mind that most aviation accidents occur around the airport area, this limitation will hamper our ability to deploy the drones as soon as we arrive at the accident sites in the restricted zones, since the drones are programmed not to operate within the zone unless unlock codes are obtained. Our request to ONSA for permanent unlock authorisation did not receive a favorable response,” Olateru said.

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Musa NuhuNCAA
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