5 Companies licensed for commercial drone services

BY: Maclean Kwofi
Director-General of the GCAA, Mr. Charles Kraikue
Director-General of the GCAA, Mr. Charles Kraikue

The Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has licensed five companies to operate commercial drones for various services in the country.

The licensed companies — SKT Aeroshutter, Rocketmine Aerial Data Solutions, Zipline International, Rudan Engineering, and Axis Drone Surveys — have successfully completed all the necessary processes and procedures of the regulator, and have subsequently secured approval to operate.

The five were among 977 companies that applied to the GCAA, seeking approval to operate drone services in the country.

Technically called remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), drone services are gaining momentum in the country as businesses and individuals resort to their use for photography, information gathering, and the supply of essentials, among other services.

However, recently, the malicious use of drones has begun to emerge among criminals, including cyber users.

The probability and frequency of these attacks are both high and their impact can be very dangerous with devastating effects.

Quantum leap

The Director-General of the GCAA, Mr. Charles Kraikue, who made this known at the inauguration of the RPAS Committee in Accra yesterday, observed that the authority was committed to ensuring that the country harnessed the benefits of RPAS or drones.

“In fact, there has been a quantum leap in the number of drones registered in Ghana since 2016 when RPAS regulation and oversight began with 977 registered RPAS owned by 607 individuals and companies.

“Out of this number, five have officially been certified to conduct commercial services to the public, with several others currently undergoing the process,” he said.

Mr. Kraikue noted that the registration of new RPAS would continue to rise in the years ahead, especially as GCAA constantly received requests for the certification of drones for commercial purposes.

Unmanned aircraft

According to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), any aircraft which was intended to be flown without a pilot on board was considered an unmanned aircraft.

Drone supports a wide range of operations, including advertisement, sports, agriculture, mining and security through to cargo delivery.

The versatility of RPAS has resulted in a dramatic rise in design and manufacturing companies over the last decade, spurring innovative and creative approaches aimed at both general and even more specialised areas.

“While this growth in unmanned aircraft use has unlocked numerous economic benefits, the direct impact of the rapid expansion we are witnessing within the sector is a challenge that regulators such as GCAA face in ensuring safety in air traffic management,” the Director-General added.

RPAS Committee

The 33-member multi-stakeholder committee, which was inaugurated by Mr. Kraikue, will be required to help the country harness the benefits of RPAS and minimise its threat to the country’s airspace.

The coordinator of the committee, Mr. Senam Atadja, pledged the commitment of the committee to ensure the safe integration of RPAS into the country’s airspace.

“The integration of RPAS into our airspace is no longer a choice but a necessity. The paths we will choose will make this integration painless and seamless for all concerned parties and stakeholders,” he said.

He said the inauguration of the internal and external committees on RPAS would strengthen GCAA’s collaboration with players in the industry and further enhance unmanned aircrafts systems traffic management (UTM).

He indicated that the drone industry was at its infant stage, and that the GCAA had been mandated by the government to nurture and promote it to become a responsible player in Ghana’s socioeconomic arena.

According to him, the authority had designed standards and practices to regulate the operations of drones since September 2016.

He added that there was the need for individuals and commercial operators to register with the authority for easy regulation.