The Minister of State Aviation, Hadi Sirika has disclosed the desire of his Ministry to forge close collaboration with stakeholders as it works hard to integrate the safe operation of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) in its airspace.
The Minister who made this known while speaking, Monday at the opening ceremony of the ICAO RPAS symposium and workshop holding in Abuja, said supporting the innovation of RPAs otherwise known as drones while maintaining safety is top priority at the Federal Ministry of Transportation (Aviation Sector).
He told participants at the symposium which is being held in conjunction with representatives from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that each of them will have role to play in the coming days, as they hear some of the pressing challenges facing the RPA industry in Africa and around the world, and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority’s (NCAA) integration efforts.
Attending the event also are aviation and technology industries around the world, law enforcement agencies, academia, Nigerian Stakeholders, the Federal Ministry of transportation and aviation agencies around Africa.
Sirika said “Nigeria the most complex and busiest airspace in west and central Africa, and it is NCAA’s responsibility to ensure its safety for public use. We need to incorporate Remotely Piloted Aircraft and their users into our culture of safety and responsibility. But we need to do it in a way that doesn’t stifle the enthusiasm for this growing industry. The best way to accomplish this is to partner with a wide range of stakeholders, government, aviation regulators and manufacturers.
“While valuable inputs on regulations are being received from stakeholders and building concensus through public sensitization, the Government is making substantial progress in integrating RPAS into Nigerian Airspace structure.
“Consequently, the Government through Civil Aviation Authority is establishing a Remotely Piloted Aircraft Safety Team that will include a wide variety of stakeholders in the aviation industry. This is similar to the highly successful NCAA Safety Surveillance Team. This group will analyze safety data developed, to identify emerging threats that RPAS may pose to aircraft, people, and property. They will also develop mitigation strategies to address these threats and prevent future accidents.
“The creation of the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Safety Team reflects the importance of this issue to the Government, and the value of collaboration with stakeholders.
“The Team will help to develop recommendations that will assist the government to create RPAS registration system in the shortest possible time. While the registration will help connect RPAS with its operator in cases where people are not complying with rules and guidelines.
“It also gives us a valuable opportunity to educate users on how to operate their Remotely Piloted Aircraft safely.
‘In addition to educating hobbyists, NCAA’s Regulations Committee is putting a regulatory framework in place to address the commercial use of RPAS as well.
“I hope you engage with representatives from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and other Civil Aviation Authorities in Africa and bring your best questions and ideas to the fore.”
Speaking earlier, President of the ICAO Council, Dr. Olumuyiwa Aliu said the aviation industry is undergoing a fundamental change in light of the widespread introduction of unmanned aircraft.
Adding that the flipside of this dynamic growth in opportunity is the challenge of balancing safety and security with efficiency and sustainability, he emphasised that the onus of succeeding in this challenge falls on the shoulders of regulators “who must work to craft and establish a well-structured and appropriate regulatory framework”.
He expressed ICAO’s gratitude to the Federal Government of Nigeria for collaborating in hosting the symposium and the facilities presented.