SLCAA Signs MoU with DSTI

By Cyril Barnes

In a bid to foster development and accelerate the adoption of emerging technologies to transform lives, 
the Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority (SLCAA) on Monday 9th September,  2019 has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with 
the Directorate of Science Technology and Innovation for the operation of unmanned aircraft (drone) in Sierra Leone. 

The signing, which took place at the DSTI meeting room State House, proposes the establishment of the Sierra Leone National Drone Program that will be responsible for all drone operations in Sierra Leone. 

The Chief Innovation Officer of the Directorate of Science Technology and Innovation, Dr. David Sengeh 
expressed his excitement over the potential growth drones could offer for the transformation of lives in Africa, adding that he was part of the World Economic Forum in Rwanda the drone framework agreement was developed. 

For the establishment of a perfect drone operations model, he mentioned that Rwanda nationals engaged 
with operating companies to analyze risk-based assessments which gave them the ability to quickly test different use cases for operation, and as a result, they are carrying out drone operations for specific purposes ranging from facilitating health, agriculture and intelligence. “Our interest to have an agency responsible for unmanned aircraft is solely in the interest of Sierra Leone. We want the SLCAA to be one of the use cases globally, especially in terms of how it carries out aerial imaging. What we require is openness and collaboration to harness the growth of drone operations in Sierra Leone,” Dr. Sengeh said.

He added, “On Thursday we will have an engagement with the World Economic Forum facilitators in respect of drone operations. After the discussion, we are expected to draft a policy framework and operations toolkit that are used in Rwanda. The Rwanda model will serve as a blueprint for the development our own definitions for drone operation in Sierra Leone.”

In response to the Chief Innovation Officer, the Director General of SLCAA, Moses Tiffa Baio recalled the global discussion that ensued in Singapore in relation to unmanned carriers, especially the opportunities it presents in transforming lives in Africa, believing that if it was successfully implemented in Rwanda, it would be highly likely for its successful implementation in Sierra Leone.

“The operations of unmanned aircrafts are a global challenge to the aviation industry because drones are 
emerging technologies. In the aviation industry, there are contrasting views on regulating or not regulating unmanned aircraft, as drone regulations do not fall within the ambit of ICAO’s five strategic objectives. However, the opportunities it presents to assist the African continent are enormous. Therefore, if we say we cannot cater for its operation, it is like we are defeating the purpose of our own existence,” Director 

The MOU calls for the setting up a Technical Committee comprising SLCAA, DSTI and staff of other stakeholder agencies to partner and organise programs and activities geared toward fulfilling the obligations of the project. It also authorises the SLCAA to grant drone licenses and gives DSTI the authority to operate a drone corridor until the National Drone Regulations are in force.