Implementing Drone technology in Africa

Sean Reitz, Managing Director, United Drone Holdings

The United Drone Holding Group is a group of commercial Drone companies focused on various aspects of the commercial Drone industry in Africa. Subsidiaries include:

  1. RPAS Training Academy
    • A South African CAA-accredited training school located in Johannesburg, Durban and Kenya currently. More than 400 RPL (Remote Pilot License) students have been trained by RPAS Academy thus far and it’s the first school in Africa approved to train BVLOS(Beyond Visual Line of Sight).
  2. Commercial Drones
    • An importer and distributor of commercial Drone hardware as well as software. Drone servicing and repairs are offered in addition to turnkey solutions.
  3. DroneCon
    • This is Africa’s largest commercial Drone conference. The 3-day event takes place annually in Johannesburg and is an absolute must for everyone interested in the future of Drones within a commercial context.
  4. Drone Ops
    • A licensed South African commercial Drone operator with focus in the Mining and Industrial sector.

Construction Review Magazine, Africa’s leading construction journal conducted an exclusive interview with Sean Reitz, Managing Director at United Drone Holding Group.

  1. How does a United Drone see the African drones in construction market?

Depending on which country one considers, the major limiting factor remains regulation and legislation. PWC rates construction as a major sector for drones and this is becoming more evident in Southern Africa. In Kenya the regulations are not yet complete and therefore no drones are permitted to fly without special permission. In South Africa it has been slow going with only 26 companies approved to offer commercial drone services since July 2015.

  1. Which are the most popular drone technologies being applied in Africa currently?

DJI from Shenzhen in China is globally the largest manufacturer of small commercial drones and makes up round 80% of the multirotor market. This number is pretty much the same in every country.

  1. What are the challenges in the African market in terms of application and maintenance? 

As mentioned, the biggest challenge is regulation and getting permission to fly in the first place. As more legal operators are added the support infrastructure increases too. This should be viewed as a symbiotic relationship between regulation, import of technology, people training and ultimately the education of customers that leads to commercial opportunities.

  1. What do you think can be done to overcome these challenges?

In South Africa UDH Group conducted a market impact assessment in 2017 and again this year. The results were astounding as it indicated the opportunity to create more than 40 000 jobs in South Africa alone and generate a contribution in excess of US $ 298.2m in SA. This message needs to get out to Government and the regulators and the barriers to implementing Drone technology need to be reduced or eradicated. This obviously needs to be done in a safe and practical way that protects National security, privacy and safety.

  1. How is the future of drones in construction in Africa looking?

Drones will make a material positive impact in Construction projects in the following ways

  • Planning and tender phase. Access to accurate GIS and other aerial data will allow for more accurate bids to be submitted in shorter timelines.
  • During the project drones will assist in project management and progress reporting
  • Post project, drones can assist in reducing dispute challenges as they provide accurate and date and time stamped records of activity and quality.

 

 

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