Know your drone operator

While there are gargantuan opportunities in the drone technology space in Africa, it is important that people understand between hobbyists and professionals, in case they hire the wrong people who will give drones a bad name.

At least that is what one drone professional thinks.

In a recent video posted on social media site YouTube, Tawanda Chihambakwe, founder of Zimbabwean drone start-up Precision Aerial sought to distinguish between drone owners, drone pilots and drone professionals, and we sought out his rationale behind the explanations.

“I just felt like letting prospective drone users out there should understand the difference, so when they hire drone services, they will be guided accordingly,” says Tawanda. “Besides, from an industry perspective we must distinguish between trained drone operators and untrained hobbyists. Public awareness is key so that those who are licensed and are the ones who do commercial work. Because drones are little policed by law enforcement, the responsibility of licensed pilots is to protect and defend the industry from drone owners who operate without licensing.”

Tawanda says he has come across cases where untrained drone owners were hired for a drone services, and they performed poorly, and in the process, dragged the rest of the drone value chain in the mud. Such unlicensed operations, Tawanda reckons, are a danger to the industry and society at large because the operators do so with no due care to public safety and the safety of the surrounding environment.

He goes on; “From a regulatory perspective, it is illegal for someone who is just a drone owner to offer commercial drone services without the requisite training & licensing. Drone Owners pose a danger to the industry and public at large because they do not operate safely, responsibly and within a regulatory framework.

“Also, you find that a drone owner will undercharge for the work they are hired to do; because they have no licensing and training fees to consider; which brings down the value of the hard work done by licensed operators.”

Mr Chihambakwe does have a point, we think. With the drone economy still in the fledging phase as it is in Africa, it is only understandable that any publicity the industry get is the right one. There are many governments on the continent that are still to be sold on the value of drone technology on their economies, and are wont to use any excuse to spoil the broth for the whole value chain. As we write, the whole drone community is watching with bated breath as Chinese giant DJI fights for literally its life in the USA, as allegations of espionage threaten its existence in the largest market in the world.

It is just the reality of our lives that the world has people on it who are just an anathema to progress, wherever it originates from – the internet is good, but we still have people abusing it to commit all sorts of crimes. We have people abusing glue and cough syrup for eff’s sake, turning these innocent liquids into potent drugs that can leave a man senseless.

By the same token, it is vital that industry professionals like Tawanda make their voices heard, because it would be remiss to judge a technology based on the people who flout the rules. We have documented countless accounts of how drones have been Godsent in these difficult coronavirus times where human movement has to be as minimal as possible; what we have not said aloud is how all this good work has been made possible by the sheer dedication of trained professionals behind the technology who toil day and night to ensure seamless operations we have come to marvel.

By all means, if you wish to own a drone, buy one. But leave the professional operations to professionals. The ones who trained for it.

Tawanda’s new YouTube channel was launched two weeks ago, and on it, the new vlogger says he hopes to share his experiences with drone technology across Africa.


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