The final day of the conference finished with presentations describing the use of drones for blast monitoring at mines (Rocketmine), for precision agriculture (Aerobotics) and for deliveries (DroneLife). There was also a presentation on the use of precision avionics on drones for efficient and safe operations (Aeroprobe).
Eric Delabrousse from Rocketmine demonstrated how drones and specialist software can be used to determine the effectiveness of blasting operations quickly, with more accuracy and lower safety risks for blast engineers. Footage could be used to analyze blast fragment size and determine whether re-blasting is required. Blasts can also be replayed in slow motion to analyze their effectiveness.
Benjamin Meltzer’s presentation about Aerobotics’ involvement in precision agriculture was very interesting. In addition to using drones, they have developed the ‘Aeroview’ software for flight planning and data analysis, including tree counts for forestry use. The latter is being tested in Malawi. Aerobtoics is a South African company and a number of the other presenters applauded Aerobotics success on the international stage. Benjamin concluded with a prophecy that drones will soon be able to assess flower intensity, fruit size and complete fruit counts.
Miriam McNabb from Jobs for Drones discussed the realities of drones being used for delivery. The upshot is that the use of drones for delivery is actually being driven more by humanitarian needs than purely commercial gains. The African continent has the distinction of having the first routine drone deliveries. Blood is currently being delivered by Zipline to rural communities in Rwanda. The service is to be expanded to Tanzania next month. Another autonomous blood delivery service between hospitals has also started in Switzerland care of Matternet. Miriam concluded that for drone deliveries to be successful, they must solve a real problem and add value to a community.
The Drones Africa Summit finished with a panel discussion on ‘How Government and Industry can best work together in the area of Research and Development for Innovation and Technologies in the Aeronautics and UAV Space’. In summary, points were raised in support of the CAA and the need for the safe integration of drones in airspace. Frustrations were also expressed about the ‘paralysing’ effect of the regulations and that these are encouraging both a loss of pilots to other countries and the escalation of illegal activities. Hope was also offered based on the US experience where a more collaborative relationship with all parties has evolved with time.
With the closure of the Summit, the women attendees (me included) were invited by Miriam NcNabb to gather for a group photograph. I think there were 10 of us – including pilots, industry
executives, engineers, conservation managers, land surveyors and journalists from South Africa, Zimbabwe and USA.
Overall, the conference was very interesting and very informative. The presentations for the use of drones and supporting technology were particularly interesting, including the new ADS-B
transponder systems being tested with drones. These will go a long way to helping solve airspace management issues that currently worry regulators and perhaps remove some of the
headaches for would-be operators! The conference also provided the opportunity to chat to others in the industry, share ‘war stories’ and enjoy being part of this exciting new industry.
Thanks to Smart Link Consultancy for organising and managing the Summit. I look forward to the next one.