Similar to other African countries, there is an increasing interest for drones use for different purposes in Benin. To ensure the responsible use of drones, the Agence Nationale de l’Aviation Civile adopted drone regulation in September 2018. However, there is a lack of information on the drone sector for the actors to apply the regulation. This may negates the impending efforts by different institutes and NGOs to develop the sector.
To overcome this lack of information, Benin Flying Labs implemented a workshop to discuss drone sector in Benin. The purposes of the workshop are twofold. First, it aims at conducting the diagnostic of the sector using SWOT framework. Second, the workshop aims to collect drones users’ recommendations in order to improve the regulation.
The workshop was held on April 2, 2019 and gathered drones users (individual and companies) from different communes of the country, BFL team as well as its supporting partner’s team namely Global Partners (GP) and Agence pour le Développement du Numérique (ADN). Drone users were identified through a census conducted prior to the event. The workshop consists of two major sections and each section included a presentation, group discussion and a plenary session. Before these two sections, a communication was given on BFL to create awareness among participants. All the sections were conducted in a pleasant atmosphere and remarkable involvement of participants.
The first section focused on the establishment of the diagnostic of drone sector in Benin. Results of census on drone sector in Benin presented in this section provided an interesting overview of the current state of the sector using precise figures. Group exercise and plenary discussion led to identify Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of the sector in Benin. Although actors listed several factors, the main are:
- Strengths: Availability of regulatory framework on the use of UAV Existence of government support through ADN; Existence of strategic partnership with WeRobotics through BFL.
- Weaknesses: Unawareness of the current drones regulation by drones’ users; Inexistence of certified training centers in Benin; Absence of networking between drones users.
- Opportunities: Existence of several identified usages of drones in Benin; Opportunities of establishing public-private partnership; increasing interest for drones by the population.
- Threats: Requirements for the drone pilot; Difficulties of access to drones and its components; Inexistence of the map of no-fly zones in Benin.
This exercise provides for the first time useful insight to the drone sector in Benin. Although the sector faces some weaknesses and threats, it clearly appears that it can use support from government and Benin Flying Labs to take advantage from the growing opportunities in the country and to overcome weaknesses and mitigate threats. For instance, BFL can significantly contribute to build awareness about the regulation, become a leading training center for drones users and fabricators, and facilitate access to drones and its components as well as facilitating networking of the actors.
The second section was dedicated to the analysis of drone regulation in Benin. At the beginning of the section, the regulation was briefly presented to participants using an interactive approach. Participants granted that regulation document is well elaborated. However, they identified some limits and made recommendations based on that in order to facilitate the respect of the regulations and consequently the development of the sector. Some of their recommendations are:
- Facilitate the delivery of administrative pieces such as drones identifying numbers, flying approval, operating license for companies by creating and/or promoting the public organizations in charge of each of these pieces.
- Increase the validity duration of pilot and operating licenses which is currently set at 24 months.
- Reduce the period between the submission of request of operating license and the date of operations from at least 30 days to 72 hours.
From this section, participants recognized that regulation is an integral aspect of drone sector development. However, they would like to have a regulation which is more appropriate to the context of Benin. In addition, the effectiveness of the regulation will go through the existence of required public services to delivery administrative document to users.
The workshop allows direct actors to meet and network for the first time. As part of the process to facilitate the sustainable development of drone sector in Benin, the next step is to implement a workshop with National Agency of Civil Aviation to discuss the way to integrate drone users observations and recommendations in the regulation.
BFL is grateful to its supporting partners namely Global Partners and Agence pour le Développement du Numérique.