The Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Muhtar Shaibu Usman has taken steps to establish Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) / Drones Safety Team which will analyze safety data developed and identify emerging threats that RPAS may pose to aircraft, people and property. The team, which is similar to the highly successful NCAA Safety Surveillance Team, will help develop recommendations that will assist the Authority create a RPAS registration system in the shortest possible time; help connect a RPAS with its operators in cases where people are not following the rules -an important step forward for enforcement efforts. It will also develop mitigation strategies to address these threats and prevent future accidents. In addition, NCAA will be establishing an RPAS Advisory Committee that will be overseen by the Directorate of General Aviation (GDA).This will help prioritize Remotely Piloted Aircraft integration activities, including the development of future regulations and policies. Representatives of the committee which will be announced soon will cut across the aviation spectrum as well as the RPAS industry.

DG NCAA, Capt. Muhtar  Shaibu Usman 

Capt. Usman made this disclosure at a one-day Stakeholders meeting recently held in Abuja in collaboration with the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) .The maiden stakeholders’ forum in the history of the aviation was to articulate guidelines which will regulate usage of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV)/ Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) in the Nigerian Airspace.

The DG disclosed that the stakeholders’ forum became imperative in View of increasing proliferation of RPAS and to also address RPAS issues to meet up with the global trends. It is also to ensure compliance / enforcements with the regulations in line with the growing requests for the use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS).

According to him, the creation of the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Safety Team and the RPAS Advisory Committee reflects the importance of this issue to the Authority and the value of collaboration with stakeholders.

By so doing, valuable opportunity to educate users about how to fly their Remotely Piloted Aircraft safely will be afforded. Aside from educating hobbyists, NCAA‘s Regulations Committee is putting a regulatory framework in place to address the commercial use of RPAS as Well.

The first regulation for the routine use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft took effect in 2015. Subsequently, a new regulation which will put a limit of 25kg as the allowable weight limitation for civil RPA in the country (in the first instance) will hopefully be made public by the first quarter of 2017.

It is designed to provide an important regulatory foundation for allowing additional weight categories in future in the hope of proposing a rule on Remotely Piloted Aircraft operations over populated areas by the end of this year. Any RPAS of a higher weight category will require a special approval from the ONSA.

Speaking further, Capt. Usman mentioned that, although Nigeria has one of the most complex airspace in the world, NCAA has responsibility to ensure the safety of it for public use. Therefore, there is urgent need to incorporate Remotely Piloted Aircraft and their users into our culture of safety and responsibility without stifling the enthusiasm for this growing industry.

To accomplish this task, a wide range of stakeholders, government in terms of security, aviation in terms of rule making, and technology in terms of manufacturers. Those valuable inputs on regulations and building consensus around public education campaigns is helping the Authority make substantial progress on integrating Remotely Piloted Aircraft into the Nigerian national airspace structure, thereby taking the next step and formalizing this partnership.

In his words, ”global ingenuity which fueled national pathways in aviation, since its earliest days, has also created businesses, improved lives, and cemented progress worldwide. This has continued till this day where one of the most exciting sectors of the aviation industry doesn’t even require a pilot to be physically present in the cockpit.”

”Remotely Piloted Aircraft which come in all shapes and sizes are transforming industries worldwide providing filmmakers with a fresh angle on the world, and giving first responders a new tool for search-and rescue operations. ”

Capt. Usman commended the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), the apex security agency in Nigeria which has worked tirelessly in organizing this stakeholder’s forum to address the operations of RPAS in the Nigerian civil national airspace.

In conclusion, the DG expressed optimism that working closely with partners in the aviation industry and the Remotely Piloted Aircraft community will be fruitful; hence, serving as a model for the rest of Africa and the world.

Source: the Regulator

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