The Drone Council South Africa has been launched by Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams under the theme “Strategic partnerships to accelerate a national drone-industry growth strategy”.
The launch took place during a webinar on 15 July. The Council is a platform of affiliation by various established companies and new entrants into the drone industry. Its main objectives are to facilitate growth of the South Africa drone economy through collaboration, business incubation, industrial sectoral optimization and investment, drone pilot training, and industry transformation, amongst others.
Irvin Phenyane, Chairperson of the Drone Council South Africa, said “Our sluggish response to global drone technology trends has put us on a backfoot and has exposed South Africa’s lost opportunities. South Africa was the first country in Africa to approve drone (RPAS) regulations, but subsequent international investment has gone elsewhere in Africa. South Africa is now playing catch-up. However, after 16 months of consultation, there is now industry consensus that all stakeholders must be rallied under one national strategy.”
“New drone technology skills for graduates, current aviators and unemployed youth are being considered. Many developing countries are now using drone technology in many industries like town planning, project monitoring, rail services, road maintenance, crop spraying, delivery of goods and the security industry. The accelerated growth of the drone industry is paramount to the economic growth of our country,” said Phenyane.
Participants in the webinar included California-based Zipline, which developed its capacity to deliver essential services before and during the COVID-19 era in rural Rwanda and Ghana, the South African Civil Aviation Authority, Swoop Aero from Australia, Wingcopter from Germany and Astral Aero from Kenya.
The Drone Council SA was initiated in 2019, with its launched planned for May 2020, but postponed due to the coronavirus lockdown. It is a membership-based entity, and will endeavor to empower its members. The Council’s main objective is to organize its members and other stakeholders to enhance robust development of the drone economy in South Africa.
Board members of the council include Angelina Ntombikayise Maseko, chairperson of drone supplier Rugged Africa; Ken Venn, founder of drone firm UAVI; Shaun Ledlie, president of the Association of Aviation Training Organisations of South Africa; Kelebogile Molopyane, CEO for AB4IR; and Jack Shilubana, MD of Ntiyiso Aviation Services.