Friday, July 19, 2024

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The complexities of drones discussed at Securex 2024

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While there is nothing new in the fact that various types of drones are used in applications from mining, agriculture, industrial manufacturing, the energy sector, transport, to the military and security, there is a lot more to the unmanned aircraft.

Speaking at a seminar on the Who, Where, and How of Drones in Today’s Security at Securex 2024, director of operations at Aerial Works Kim James said seeing that drones are mostly acquired to address a particular need, be it surveillance, monitoring or security, a range of complexities have to be considered.

It is a given that, as in all countries, regulation is in place in South Africa to determine who can operate drones, and drones are also subject to regulation, i.e. where and how they are operated.

“Too often, the procurement department undertakes a web search for ‘drones’ without keeping in mind the very first complexity, namely people,” James advised.

“A drone pilot cannot be compared to personnel doing ground patrols.”

She noted that where ground patrols can drive on 12-hour shifts, a drone pilot is often exposed to a more intense task and subject to a greater measure of fatigue. If a drone operation lasting 24 hours is contemplated, it would be advisable to prepare for three shifts involving three drone pilots.

A further complexity involves the drone itself.

James stated that operational requirements determine the type of drone to be acquired.

“The drone has to be fit for purpose, therefore, specify for the reality on the ground,” she affirmed.

Drones have a limited endurance, often at variance with the stated specifications.

“It is only 25 minutes instead of 60 as the manufacturer claims. Therefore, if a drone operation is expected to last long, provision should be made for a spare drone or drones,” James advised.

“Consider where the drone is to be deployed: in remote areas you might need spare batteries.”

An additional complexity is price. The cheapest option is often not the best.

James stressed that an RFQ should follow the RFI. It would be in the interests of all for Procurement and Business to be in partnership.

For James, the most important consideration is operational safety.

“Bear in mind, drones are flown in the same airspace as other aircraft,” she said.

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