Rwanda deploys drones into environment protect efforts

…to use drones locally designed and made by local start-up

It looks like Rwanda is realising that there is a drone for every problem.

Well; not every problem of course; but Rwanda does have a really robust medical drone logistics partnership with American drone logistics company Zipline, which has been going strong since 2016.

Now, the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) and the Ministry of Environment will be deploying drone technology to help in the fight against environmental degradation in the country.

Reports from Rwanda indicate that the drones will be used to collect data useful to support investigations of environmental crimes, and fly on surveillance missions aimed at preventing deliberate environmental harm.

Environmental problems in Rwanda include deforestation, water pollution, illegal mining, as well as encroachment into protected areas that include especially parks, and riverbanks.

And of course, Rwanda is home to the mountain gorilla, whose population has endured years of war, hunting, habitat destruction and disease – threats so severe that it was once thought the species might be extinct by the end of the twentieth century.

Now the government has turned to drones to help eradicate this problem.

Better still, the stakeholders will be using the Inganji I, a drone wholly designed and manufactured in Rwanda by Rwandan engineers and pilots with thousands of flight time experience.

Made by drone services start-up Charis UAS, the Inganji features high data security and power efficiency, high resolution, and an intelligent zoom camera for security and surveillance application.

“Exciting news from the Ministry of Environment,” the start-up announced on its social media pages

“Minister (Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya), in collaboration with (the Rwanda Investigation Bureau) and (UNDP Rwanda) has just unveiled the Inganji I, our cutting-edge drone for environmental protection, inspections, and investigations against environmental crimes.”

According to the manufacturer, the Inganji’s rotors can spawn a highly efficient propulsion system and extended flight time. The drone also has a data transmission that can stretch up to 20km, with a triple-redundant IMU system for safety.

“The drones will help to respond to and control activities that damage our environment including land degradation, water pollution, and illegal logging in protected areas,” said Minister for Environment Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya (pictured).

“We thank the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) who have joined us in the fight against environmental degradation where they conducted sensitisation campaigns on environmental crimes, identified victims of those environmental crimes, offenders and opened case files for prosecution.

The minister added that the partnership with RIB will take lessons from the existing relationship between the Rwanda National Police and Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) and other concerned institutions; in terms of setting up joint teams from the district level to curb environmentally harmful activities.

The drones will support the country’s efforts in protecting the environment as Rwanda seeks to achieve a vision to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

Rwanda has a long-term Green Growth and Climate Resilience Strategy and an ambitious climate action plan to reduce carbon emissions by 38 percent by 2030.

“This drone reaffirms the existing work of conducting inspections for prevention, detection, and investigations of environmental crimes countrywide. This drone will help to collect information from no-go areas and the accurate data and information will inform further action.”

One of the areas worst affected by environmental degeneration is the Nyabarongo River, which continues to suffer from pollution, despite billions being invested in its conservation and protection.

So bad has the situation been that in 2022, President Paul Kagame grilled officials in charge of the environment over increasing pollution in the Nyabarongo River.

Environmental experts point to soil erosion and mining activities as the leading causes of pollution in the river.

At least five mining companies, five clay mining activities, and four sand mining activities in the districts of Kamonyi, Muhanga, Gakenke, and Ngororero were found to be polluting the environment last year.

“These aren’t just flying cameras; they’re guardians in the sky, protecting our land and people from the risks of illegal activities,” said Maxwell Gomera, Rwanda’s United Nations Development Plan (UNDP) Resident Representative.

“The drones will be used in the fight against environmental crimes by enabling monitoring, detecting, and collecting evidence that will be used to prosecute the culprits,” said Rwanda Investigation Bureau Secretary General Jeannot Ruhunga.

Encroachment is also another serious problem, with the Auditor General reporting that people seem to be ignoring the government directive that they should not be settling or conducting any activities within 50 metres of the Nyabarongo River buffer zone; as well as the same zones for Lakes Kivu and Muhazi.

Abias Maniragaba, an environmental expert, said; “The drone is timely to inspect and help in investigating environment crimes given that there is a limited number of environment inspectors.

“For instance, at least 125 hectares of Nyungwe forest were recently burnt but nobody has been arrested for the crime. Drone technology can be is a solution to detect such crimes in time.”


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