Posted by Sade Williams
The Accident Investigation Bureau, Nigeria (AIB-N) cannot operate Drones at accident sites in Nigeria, especially near the airports because it has not got the clearance to operate at No-Fly-Zone from both the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
Engr. Akin Olateru, Commissioner at AIB-N made this disclosure on Wednesday while presenting a paper on ‘Drone essence in Accident Investigation’ at the Drone Technology Conference/Exhibition held at NIGAV centre, Lagos airport.
According to him, the use of drones even in civil operations is fast becoming more prominent as its advantages over other means are huge.
“It not only offers a cheaper and faster deployment on arrival at accident site than helicopters, but also offers less interference on the site due to absence of significant downwash as compared with helicopters,” he said.
He said however, that a government agency like the AIB cannot deploy its drones to accident sites eventhough it has acquired some and trained people on how to pilot them, due to the fact that most accidents occur around the airports which are tagged ‘No-,Fly-Zone’.
“As you may be aware, the AIB is pioneering the use of drones for accident investigation in the West African sub-region. We have already acquired four MAVIC-2 Pro and one Matrice 300 RTK DJI drones for this purpose. We have also trained quite a number of our accident investigators as pilots to operate the drones. Currently, we are undergoing certification process by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to authorize us operate the drones. In the meantime, we are conducting table top exercises using the drones preparatory to actual deployment to site when the call comes.
“The drone Regulations by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) is at work-in progress level, which rarely separate between commercial drone operators and non-commercial/ recreational operators. The implication is that a government agency like the AIB cannot operate its drones at accident sites in close proximity (5 miles) to the airport areas, which are tagged as NO-FLY-ZONE unless cleared on case-by-case basis by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and the NCAA.
“Obtaining the needed clearances upon occurrence of an accident would take longer than desired time and keeping in mind that most aviation accidents occur around the airport area, this limitation will hamper our ability to deploy the drones as soon as we arrive at the accident sites in the restricted zones, since the drones are programmed not to operate within the zone unless unlock codes are obtained. Our request to ONSA for permanent unlock authorization did not receive favorable response,” , he added.
He noted further that one of the challenges of operating is the need to maintain currency requirements by providing the necessary training to the pilots.
“As the drone and camera technologies develop rapidly, the need for constantly upgrading the drones and the software components cannot be overemphasized. They do not come cheap considering that you require high speed processing computers, large memory and storage to render the hundreds of images taken in a single operation,”.