Flying Labs Namibia’s quest to modernise drone regulations

We think it is understandable that entrepreneurs in the drone services industry would love it if all aviation laws were aligned in a way that favours drone users at all times.

We also think it is understandable when aviation regulators want to pause and ponder each inch of ground they give towards drone-based operations.

For one reason, this completely new territory for most regulators; they want to make sure that all things are equal – especially when it comes to the safety of people and property on the ground – before they can allow drone-friendly regulations to pass.

In this vein, it is then incumbent upon drone technology stakeholders to help aviation regulators understand the industry more; in terms of what it offers to various commercial and humanitarian applications; and they safety precautions that operators have to adhere to, to ensure that flight missions are as incident-free as they can.

Little surprise then, that the engagement route is what Namibia Flying Labs has taken, in a bid to modernise drone laws in Namibia.

The Namibia custodian of the Flying Labs franchise, in collaboration with its parent organisation WeRobotics and D2 International (Deloitte Consulting’s community impact organisation) has in the past year been working with civil aviation authorities in Namibia to consult drone stakeholders on the best way forward with regards to the best way forward in updating the country’s regulations.

“There is currently no one size fits all set of drone regulations; each country has distinct drivers, needs, and challenges regarding drone operations,” D2 International said in a recently released report about their engagement efforts.

“However, it can be important for civil aviation authorities and other regulators to understand the global regulatory environment and consider international regulatory harmonisation. A contextual understanding of the local, regional, and global regulatory environment is foundational for CAAs to balance local considerations with global harmonization.

“Effective stakeholder engagement can be a catalyst for CAAs to establish a contextual understanding of their local, regional, and global regulatory environment.

“However, the onus is not just on the CAAs; proactive leadership from local stakeholders in fostering collaboration across the ecosystem can significantly amplify the effectiveness of regulatory development.”

True to the Flying Labs mantra of local entrepreneurs taking charge in the search for local solutions, Namibia Flying Labs have decided to take the initiative in revamping local drone laws and bringing them into modern times.

The start-up, WeRobotics and D2 International came up with the Flying Labs Drone Regulations Engagement Framework, which outlines a locally-led approach for drone ecosystems to engage with their local regulators and collaborate with stakeholders across borders, fostering a nuanced understanding of the local, regional, and global regulatory landscape.

The aim of the framework is to equip local ecosystems to:

  • Foster a locally-led, community-driven approach to influencing the development of drone regulations
  • Provide a baseline and clear picture of where drone regulations currently stand in their country
  • Form a unified vision among stakeholders for a future with drone regulations that provide clear guidance, set limitations, and ensure safe and equitable airspace access
  • Identify high-priority drone regulatory challenges in their country
  • Gather insights from other countries on leading practices and lessons learned regarding high-priority regulatory challenges
  • Develop potential solutions informed by local, regional, and global expertise and context, promoting local considerations and global harmonization
  • Share findings across the ecosystem and global landscape, fostering knowledge sharing and global collaboration towards drone regulation development

Ultimately, the study emerged with a 20-page report of tailored drone regulatory insights for Flying Labs Namibia; as well as a repeatable framework for the study that could be replicated and refined across Flying Labs in over 40 countries spanning across Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia/Pacific.

Virginie Uwimana, the co-founder of Namibia Flying Labs says her organisations and its partners recently held workshops with 35 representatives of drone professionals and users in the country, to help analyse the industry’s current state, identify best practices, and propose recommendations to the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority.

The researchers found 42 use cases for commercial drone technology in Namibia, with 48 percent of them in mapping and 24 percent in monitoring or surveying.

About 74 percent of these applications are usually carried out over public property, a reality that has necessitated the need for a robust regulatory framework that benefits and serves all stakeholders.

“This initiative was driven by industry stakeholder needs and aimed to document current and future requirements,” Uwimana told Forbes recently, adding that the burgeoning drone industry in Namibia faces a crucial challenge: implementing a framework for safe and efficient operations.

She further explained that the research was crucial in addressing two key questions regarding regulations: “Where are we now?” and “Where do we want to be?”

“We engaged the diverse Namibian drone community from across the country to contribute their insights to this research, which presented Namibia with a significant opportunity to tailor its regulatory framework to its specific needs.”

Charles Munyaradzi Kamba, who co-founded Flying Labs Namibia alongside Uwimana, said some of the biggest takeaways from the project were the development of a comprehensive framework, outlining effective strategies to support drone regulations and policies, complemented by a detailed handbook and toolkit tailored for other countries in the Flying Labs network.

“These are some valuable resources for our global colleagues, which will hopefully result in the successful replication of similar projects in their respective countries,” said Kamba.

The drone industry in Namibia is estimated to have brought in a modest $235.200 in revenue generated in so far this year, with a  was projected a forecasted of about five percent by 2028; thanks to a surge in demand for aerial surveying and wildlife conservation applications.

1 Comment

  • Archita Modi Reply

    19 June 2024 at 08:56

    This is an amazing initiative. please connect

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