African Drone Development: In the Fields of Hope

October 21, 2023

Since 2016, drones have been rapidly promoted and applied in African countries, resulting in the so-called "rising wave of drones in Africa." As a necessary supplement to the air transportation industry, the application and supervision of drones, especially civilian drones, in African countries deserves attention.

Currently, the main users of drones and mini-drones in African countries include governments, international organizations, educational institutions, and enterprises. Its main application scenarios include agricultural production, terrain exploration, wildlife protection, archeology, etc.


Agricultural Production

African countries have a high degree of recognition of the effectiveness of drones in agriculture. In 2016, the European Union and the African Caribbean Pacific Union launched a special project to train business personnel in 21 African countries and financially support them in providing unmanned aerial vehicles to farmer organizations, agribusiness, governments, and international development agencies. In Sudan, to prevent the worsening of desertification problems, drones are used to sow acacia tree seeds and then use remote sensing technology to assess the growth and health of the plants. In Mauritius, drones are used to monitor crop growth to prevent problems such as water shortages and pests and diseases, helping farmers reduce losses and increase yields. In Senegal, drones have become a tool for mobile herders to choose water sources and grazing land. In Zambia, a Chinese company invested in using drones to spray pesticides to combat pests and diseases, effectively improving local agricultural production levels. In Rwanda, drones have also played a positive role in livestock production and reproduction.


Terrain Detection

In Nigeria and South Africa, drones can provide safe, detailed, and cheap solutions for mapping in the mineral exploration industry, including 3D terrain mapping, volume calculations, etc. In August 2017, drones produced in China conducted the first drone-based aerial survey of mineral resources in Africa. The China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics Technology used modified drones to conduct more than 50 flights in Zambia and completed nearly 32,000 kilometers of aerial operations. In January this year, local governments in Nigeria began using drones for land management.


Wildlife Protection

To protect wildlife, the governments of South Africa and Namibia use drones to conduct surveillance to prevent poaching and conduct research on issues such as animal migration. In the Nduma Game Reserve in South Africa, drones are mainly used to monitor the size of the crocodile population. In Morocco, drones are used to monitor marine fishery production and offshore oil extraction leaks. In Tanzania, drones are also used to perform ecological monitoring tasks in Tanzania’s wildlife reserves.



The application of drones in the field of wildlife protection is a new attempt that has emerged in recent years. It has advantages that manual censuses cannot match. During the exploration and excavation of the Yoruba civilization archaeological sites in Nigeria, drones provided a bird's-eye view of the terrain, which helped experts carry out detection and mapping work faster and better.



The application and promotion of drones in African countries also face challenges. First of all, the research development and application of drone technology requires a lot of investment, and most African countries lack sufficient financial support; secondly, drones have various restrictions on service areas, packaging size, and weight; thirdly, African countries generally lack drone technology R&D talents.


The Regulatory System Needs to Be Strengthened

According to the ICAO Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) manual, drone supervision content can be broken down into 13 modules, and three result states are set: full compliance, missing, and deviation.


The main issues involved in the regulation of drones by African governments include: Are there any laws and regulations on drones? What is the status of regulatory regulations? In addition, drone registration, pilot licenses and capabilities, license issuance, and safety management are also involved. Compared with ICAO regulations, African government drone regulatory systems are still under construction and improvement.


Based on the ICAO Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) manual module, the drone regulatory systems in four countries, namely Ghana, Zambia, Malawi, and Uganda, were analyzed.


Ghana’s drone regulatory documents contain 11 items, with two missing provisions and one deviation from ICAO regulations. Among them, Ghana has its regulations on the issuance of drone licenses, which require both obtaining it from the national security agency and obtaining written permission from the police in the area where the drone is flown.


Zambia’s drone regulatory system only contains 8 clauses that comply with ICAO regulations, accounting for approximately 62% of ICAO clauses, and does not include deviation clauses.


Malawi’s drone regulatory system contains 7 clauses that comply with ICAO regulations, accounting for approximately 54% of ICAO clauses. Among them, there is a deviation provision, that is, the maintenance clause is relatively independent.


85% of the provisions in Uganda’s drone regulatory system comply with ICAO regulations. Among them, there is a clear deviation provision, namely the RPAS Training and Education Standards and Framework Provisions.


In addition to the countries mentioned above, drone applications in Tanzania require permission from the aviation authorities and the Minister of Defense, and all drones must be kept at a sufficient altitude and distance from conventional aircraft to ensure safety and maneuverability. Countries such as South Africa and Kenya are building legal frameworks for drone regulation to closely control the use of drones.



The rapid development of drones in Africa deserves attention.


At present, the providers of drone services in African countries are mainly foreign companies, and local African companies are also gradually growing.


Generally speaking, compared with developed countries in Europe and the United States, African governments have fewer regulatory restrictions on drones. African governments allow the use of small, non-commercial, and non-military drones as long as basic requirements are met.


Drone applications are advancing globally. However, some countries have already adopted drone regulatory measures and formulated relevant application standards.


In addition to the urgent need to improve regulatory regulations, the development of drones in African countries is also subject to financial investment. Financing education, R&D, and drone entrepreneurship will be key factors in determining the future development and adoption of the drone industry in Africa. China has mature drone R&D manufacturers and industrial clusters. If Africa is regarded as an important drone market, Chinese companies and relevant regulatory agencies must continue to pay attention to changes in the African drone market and regulatory environment to lay the foundation for the subsequent introduction and adoption of substantive market development strategies.


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Carlos Diaz
I believe in making the impossible possible because there’s no fun in giving up. Travel, design, fashion and current trends in the field of industrial construction are topics that I enjoy writing about.

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