TANZANIA Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) is putting final touches on guidelines to regulate importation and use of unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, which are becoming rampant in the domestic airspace.
Common uses of drones in Tanzania include taking of still and video pictures at events and anti-poaching surveillance in game reserves. Neighbouring Rwanda uses the technology to distribute medical supplies in remote areas.
Through the envisaged regulations, the Tanzania People Defence Force (TPDF) and TCAA have to approve all future imports and use of the technology must.
“We are currently putting final touches on regulations to guide importation and use of drones in Tanzania, among others; the proposed guidelines require individuals and institutions wishing to acquire the devices to first obtain permits from the army and civil aviation regulator.
“There are no statistics yet of imported drones in the domestic market but we understand that they exist in large number and are being used for various purposes,” the TCAA’s Senior Legal Officer, Ms Maria MakallaMemba, explained during a workshop for journalists in Morogoro on Saturday.
The official said the devices pose serious threat to the national security and aviation industry not only in Tanzania but even in developed countries where they are produced.
“The technology is a global challenge; many countries are now formulating guidelines on regulating their use. In Tanzania, we will embark on controlling their importation when the regulations come into place,” she explained.
Just recently, the civil aviation authority issued a public statement against rampant use of the devices, calling upon owners and operators of the drones to seek approval and clearance from the TPDF and TCAA.
“Since the public notice many people are turning up to have their gadgets approved to operate in the airspace. Once the guidelines are in place, all devices which are not approved will be confiscated,” the legal officer cautioned.
Ms Makalla-Memba noted further that the authority had conducted two separate meetings with stakeholders who expressed their views on how the equipment can be regulated, noting however that there was still need for public awareness campaigns on the technology.
She cited Rwanda as the only country in the East African region which had made headway in regulating drones, noting on the other hand that though Tanzania lags behind, it was now finalizing the regulations which are complete by 80 per cent.
The TCAA official said Tanzania had invested heavily in securing its airspace as per guidelines of International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO), admitting however that regulating drones remains a challenge.
Experts in the aviation industry are concerned that proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles had since become a matter of concern by world governments due to the threats they pose to security and aviation industry.