Africa: the world’s second largest and second most-populous continent.
- Present Military UAV usage in Africa
- Future Military UAV usage in Africa
- African countries Military spending
- African countries’ international relationships
- Chinese UAV research and development progress
- SWAT analysis of BUAA’s MALE and HALE UAV.
Drones in Africa
In Rwanda, as in many other African countries, the rainy season makes already difficult roads between smaller towns and villages all but impassable. Battered trucks struggle through the mud, and in some cases even more agile motorbikes and foot traffic are unable get through.
“If it’s for niche uses, it may not be very scalable as a business. One of the obstacles has been security considerations – people are worried about how they might be used and that has put the brakes on it a bit.”
Others are confident of the long-term potential for drone technology. Mteto Nyati, chief executive of MTN South Africa – the country’s second largest telecoms firm and part of the largest mobile operator in sub-Saharan Africa, says drones represent “a huge growth opportunity for us”.
“All those devices will have a sim … but there will also be applications linked to that sim that come up with solutions beyond the drones themselves,” says Nyati. “In South Africa, there is already clarity around licensing. It will be very easy to do the same across a number of other countries.”
For these small devices, they will be able to have a SIM. For large ones, they can but will not have SIM installed. Because they have other means of communication.
“Drones may well bring the most exciting potential to marry the real and vast physical challenges of Africa with the digital revolution.”
At first, the drone took some explaining. Anxious villagers buzzed with rumors of a new blood-sucking thing that would fly above their homes. Witchcraft, some said.
As drones quickly pick up momentum around the world in everything from military strikes to pizza delivery, Africa, the continent with some of the most entrenched humanitarian crises, hopes the technology will bring progress.
The average cost for UAV research and development, and the REAL-WORLD APPLICATION still remains to be seen. AKA, it’s becoming more practical. It takes time and patience.
This second-largest continent, with harsh landscapes of desert and rain forest and extremes of rainy seasons and drought, is burdened with what the World Bank has called “the worst infrastructure endowment of any developing region today.” Rural highways, often unpaved, disintegrate. In many countries, access to electricity has actually declined. Taking to the air to soar over such challenges, much as Africa embraced mobile phones to bypass often dismal landline service, is a tempting goal.
当然你们这些白皮猪也要想一想，自己搞的吃饭砸锅，颜色革命。非要在21世纪玩20世纪那一套搞乱了好赚钱的路数，真是江总骂你们骂得对，too young. Sometimes naive, naive!
Off Africa’s eastern coast in Madagascar, another U.S. company, Vayu, has completed drone flights to deliver blood and stool samples from rural villages with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Drones also face multiple challenges. Some models are limited in range or need frequent recharging. If they crash, retrieval in remote areas can be difficult. Some governments are wary of the technology as a possible invasion of their sovereignty, or they have no regulations in place.
Cost is another issue. The United Nations’ test early this year in Malawi with the help of U.S. company Matternet found that using motorcycles was cheaper as they could carry other cargo, said Sherman, UNICEF’s HIV and AIDS chief there.
COST IS A BIG ISSUE (RELIABILITY IS THE BIGGEST IN MY VIEW) FOR DRONES, BIG OR SMALL, TO BE POPULAR AROUND THE WORLD.
Aid organizations are pushing for new breakthroughs. The Netherlands-based Wings for Aid is working on a drone prototype to carry more and go farther: Up to 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of cargo could be delivered to several points within 500 kilometers (310 miles), said Wesley Kreft, director of business development and innovation.
“The holy grail is to have a network of autonomous drones that do their work independently, with a human supervising numerous deliveries at once,” said Arthur Holland Michel, co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College in New York.
It could take a couple of years before such drones could be entrusted with critical deliveries in challenging rural areas like Africa, he said, but the technology is there.
Drone use is on the rise in Africa - in film-making, conservation and construction.
But BBC Monitoring Africa security correspondent Tomi Oladipo says some governments on the continent are worried about security and have begun cracking down on pilots.
Weaponized Drones in Africa
Libya’s status as the preferred departure point for African migrants and refugees seeking to reach Europe has been well-documented.
Next, the harsh conditions make the region difficult to police. The journey from Agadez to the Libyan border takes between three and six days of driving through sandstorms and searing temperatures that can reach between 40-50°C (104-122°F). While the Mediterranean migration crisis has arguably received far more coverage and funding—the EU allocated €11.82 million ($13.3m, £9.3m) in June 2015 for a 12-month mission to patrol the Mediterranean for possible instances of smuggling—Loprete says tackling the problem in the Sahara is complicated by such conditions. “Nobody is patrolling the desert…It’s not like the Mediterranean where you can set up a rescue operation,” he says. “Even the police do not patrol these areas.”
Nobody is patrolling the desert, but if you have a long endurance UAV, you will be able to see everything at a relatively low cost.
Last week Nigeria joined a dubious international clique when it bombed a logistics base used by the militant group Boko Haram in the country’s northeast. Though the airstrike itself was unremarkable—the Nigerian Air Force has conducted hundreds of strikes against Boko Haram in recent months—it was the first Nigeria has delivered via an unmanned drone.
In the past 18 months the weaponized drone club has quietly grown to double-digit membership, largely thanks to Chinese technology that is both less expensive and easier to obtain than U.S. drone technology.
According to a report the New America Foundation released last year, the list of countries that possess armed drones includes the U.S., the U.K., China, Israel, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, and South Africa. Two non-state organizations—Hamas and Hezbollah—also make the list, though this is where the distinctions between “weaponized drone” and “model-aircraft-with-a-grenade-strapped-to-it” begin to become important, and not just in terms of tallying membership in the weaponized drone club. An aircraft’s range and the size of the payload it can carry has important ramifications in the international weapons marketplace, triggering international arms control agreements in some cases and not in others (more on that below).
In November, the U.S. State Department approved the sale of weaponized MQ-9 Reaper technology to Italy, making it only the second country to receive the U.S. Air Force’s signature drone strike technology (following the U.K. in 2007). Around the same time, Spain also acknowledged that it would pursue weaponization of its own fleet of MQ-9s at some undetermined point in the future. The Canadian air force reportedly is shopping for an armed drone capability as well, though neither Spain nor Canada has received clearance from the U.S. to import the technology.
That clearance is key to a larger trend in the proliferation of weaponized drones, particularly the ones now emerging in combat roles in places like Nigeria, Iraq, and Pakistan. The U.S. is signatory to something called the Missile Technology Control Regime, or MTCR—a voluntary 1987 arms control agreement aimed largely at controlling the proliferation of cruise missile technologies as the Cold War came to a close.
While the U.S. is signatory to the MTCR, drone exporters like China and Israel are not. Not only has that hurt the U.S. drone industry (for both armed and unarmed models) in the global marketplace, but it’s made China a particularly attractive vendor. (While Israel exports its drone technologies, its security situation requires that it be a more discerning seller of weaponized drone technology.) Though pricing information is scarce, analysts estimate the price tag on a Chinese CH-4 drone is roughly a quarter that of the American MQ-9 Reaper it is designed to emulate. Buying weaponized drones from China also entails far fewer regulatory hurdles.
That’s one reason we’re now seeing armed drones entering combat in places like Nigeria, Pakistan, and Iraq, each of which operates Chinese CH-3 or CH-4 models. Two CH-4s reportedly crashed in Algeria last year during evaluation by the Algerian military (though it’s not clear if Algeria went through with its purchase after the botched demo). Both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have reportedly purchased Chinese drones as well, as arms control considerations have thus far barred them from purchasing the technology from their usual weapons vendors in the United States.
The proliferation of armed Chinese drones is stratifying the weaponized drone club somewhat, says Sarah Kreps, an associate professor in Cornell University’s department of government and an expert on weapons proliferation and international security. At the high end of that strata there’s the U.S. and a handful of its allies that have the resources to sustain satellites, global data links, and foreign bases that offer the kind of global reach the U.S. drone program is renowned for, she says. Then there’s a lower tier that includes those countries operating Chinese-made weaponized platforms capable of flying only a few hundred miles from their ground controller.
That limited range doesn’t make the lower tier any less deadly, she says. For many countries battling insurgencies within their own borders or targeting the neighbor next door, a shorter range and fewer technological bells and whistles isn’t all that limiting, as evidenced by deadly strikes inside the borders of Nigeria, Pakistan, and Iraq. The fact that the weaponized drones most popular on the global market are theoretically less effective than U.S.-made drone hardware has not blunted their effect in practice.