African countries developing drones

September 18, 2015

I received spectacular images and video of a small aircraft flying in the blue sky over the northern Nigeria region bordering Niger several days ago. The unmanned aerial vehicle(UAV) features all the characteristics of a surveillance drone, except for its thunderous sound in the video.The plane is designed to carry out surveillance.Given its noise levels, however, its targets would easily become aware of its position.One of the engineers involved in the project revealed to me after the drone’s flight demonstration, which was also attended by senior security officials recently.The drone was developed jointly by local team together with the research and development division at the country’s security department. After the demo that a squadron of drones would soon join the Nigerian Air Force, making Nigeria one of a few countries that develop UAVs in Africa together with South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Ethiopia. Others working on similar projects are Kenya, Tanzania, Angola and Cameroon.The aircraft, according to the engineer, would be placed in the country’s vast border regions where terror group Boko Haram has been killing thousands of people and kidnapping women and children.

Nigeria shares land borders with Cameroon,Chad and Niger where Boko Haram has also waged terror attacks on innocent civilians.Most illegal migrants who are terrorists enter the country along these borders according to my sources. In East African country of Kenya, migrants illegally enter the country via the porous border of North Eastern region, which directly borders Somalia.Kenya security forces will use drones as eyes in the sky to fight crime, smuggling and intrusion at sea and forest areas in the coastal Kenya where authorities have sent military and paramilitary teams to flush out the terror group members hiding in the Lamu’s Boni Forest.Kenya security agencies are expected to rely on fixed-wing and rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicles as part of its strategy. “Contador Harrison we are still in the planning stages, but the UAV is the way forward for security agencies in Kenya to ensure better surveillance of border and local waters.” “We want to improve our operational efforts by using drones.“We can further secure our borders, especially north eastern and coastal regions routes, with the drones,” my source said, adding that Kenya hoped to acquire the aircraft in the next few years.

In South Africa, a source informed me that criminals, especially cigarette smugglers, were becoming increasingly crafty and the agency needed to be ready to face such challenges. “Cigarette smugglers will use a particular boat filled with contraband cigarettes as a decoy to lure authorities, allowing a group of boats with much more cargo to slip through.”A drone expert working with South Africa security agencies said with the country being used as a transit point for human smuggling, the smugglers were known to avoid arousing suspicion by using smaller fishing boats with fewer passengers to slip past the authorities with most migrants coming from Mozambique and Malawi.“These smaller boats will then rendezvous with a larger ship that will then take a big ‘load’ of people to coastal regions like Durban and Port Elizabeth.“Each illegal immigrant to South Africa is charged about US$300 for their trip,” he said. Despite being low in logistical capabilities, authorities in South Africa have vowed that agencies would give its all to improve the security of South African waters as well as mount successful search and rescue operations.Aside from surveillance, the UAVs can also be equipped with military applications. These UAVs can be upgraded to fire missiles and to carry bombs.A good example is RAF killing of three British citizens who were working as jihadists in middle East.

Despite African countries achievement with the UAVs, I believe they are still far behind other countries in terms of unmanned aircraft development. In my possession is data that shows most drones being developed in Africa can currently only fly as far as 50 kilometres from their ground controllers. US drones can fly as far as Pakistan despite being remotely operated by pilots from military bases in the US meaning they can do thousand of kilometres.In one of the African countries, a source revealed to me how they are working on enabling their UAVs to travel up to 500 kilometres and ensure they could fly up to three hours non-stop. To achieve that the country has created the software to operate the UAVs although aircraft’s engines and cameras are being imported from a European country. Another country has initiated plans to produce the engines so that we will not be dependent on other nations in the near future. However, their quality may not initially be as good as those from western countries with advanced experience in UAV production. There are at least 16 African countries which have advanced plans to include a squadron of UAVs in their respective Air Force.In short, the drone race has just began in Africa.

Contador Harrison