California, a state in U.S., is largely outlawing the delivery of weed by drones or autonomous vehicles. The state is banning shipments by watercraft, aircraft, railroads, and human-powered vehicles.
But one area being left out is the autonomous sector. Sure, a drone can already deliver you a pizza in California. Yet the California Bureau of Cannabis Control is forbidding the delivery of marijuana by an autonomous vehicle—whether from the sky or the ground….
Deliveries may be made only in person by enclosed motor vehicle. Cannabis goods may not be visible to the public during deliveries. Cannabis goods may not be left in an unattended motor vehicle unless the vehicle has an active alarm system. Vehicles used for delivery must have a dedicated, active GPS device that enables the dispensary to identify the geographic location of the vehicle during delivery.
That is not news that should concern us in Africa. But I am drawing a lesson to the mistakes of raising money and operating at edges where drastic regulations can bring the end of a startup. We saw it in Nigeria when the government for all practical purposes banned the use of civilian drones. (Government might not have technically banned drones, but the burden to comply with the regulation has killed the sub-sector. The press release is at the end.)
Nigerian drone enthusiasts, like others across the world, have spent the last couple of months experimenting and exploring innovative ways to use drone technology. Mostly adopted by filmmakers, start-ups and enthusiastic hobbyists, there was also hope on the part of e-commerce companies that drones could be the answer to dealing with delivery challenges in the country, including frequent traffic congestion and a haphazard home address system.
That hope is fast fading, with an announcement by the Nigerian government yesterday (May 8) of an immediate ban on launching Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RUA) or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) in its airspace without a permit from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as well as the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA)
Government has a right to do most things it needs to do on the basis of security. But for many entrepreneurs, a promising area was cut-off, nevertheless. The blame is not to government, it felt it needed to curtail the spread of drones, owing to many security issues in the country. That is not a bad policy. The startup is responsible for any blame because part of business is mastering risks through a well-structured SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity and threat) analysis. Any firm that has awareness of Nigeria would not have gone into drone business in Nigeria. It was evident that government would ban it. In my design center in Nigeria, I told my team never to bring drone to our facility even before the ban, to avoid the military ransacking the office on the pretense of their imaginations.
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As you do business in Africa, you must have a good pulse of the regulatory possibilities. The risk of being out of step with government could be devastating: they can burn your office and nothing will happen. So, you must have a big separation on what you can and cannot do. That means even before the regulatory ban, you must anticipate what makes sense even before government takes action.
Here are two areas you must never attempt to participate unless you have the right approvals:
- Penetration testing on websites you do not have clear approvals to test. It is illegal to hack even when you think you are testing, without the authority and permission of the site owner
- Never get close to anything ammunition or defense unless the project is within the government premises. In short, the fact that the contract came from one government agency to you is not an excuse. The other agency may not even know about it and just like that, they can burn down your building. Do not make that mistake: run away from such projects. They do not turn well as most African government agencies do not know how to share data. So, you may think you have clearance from the Army and the Police will give you a surprise.
The regulatory elements do not end in technology; it goes into every field of human endeavor. Anyone doing Bitcoin today in Nigeria should expect the Police to raid the office. It is irrelevant it may be legal in other parts of the world. Any entrepreneur raising money via Initial Coin Offering should expect the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) Nigeria to send the Police to lock up the office. While other parts of the world may give a warning, Nigeria will come physically. That is why awareness on what to do and avoid entirely is one way to survive as a startup in Nigeria. Pushing the envelope does not apply here. It may be better to move to Kenya where they have better tolerance on new things with a far more advanced regulatory regime.
*Photo is Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mr. Onnoghen
NIGERIAN CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY
NCAA ISSUES SAFETY GUIDELINES FOR DRONE OPERATORS
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has taken cognisance of the growing requests for the use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) leading to its proliferation in Nigeria and has therefore issued safety guidelines accordingly.
In recent times, RPA/UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are being deployed for commercial and recreational purposes in the country without adequate security clearance. Therefore with the preponderance of these operations particularly in a non – segregated airspace, there has to be proactive safety guidelines.
The development of the use of RPA nationwide has emerged with somewhat predictable safety concerns and security threats. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is yet to publish Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs), as far as certification and operation of civil use of RPA is concerned.
NCAA has therefore put in place Regulations/Advisory Circular to guide the certification and operations of civil RPA in the Nigerian airspace. This is contained in the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs 2015 Part 220.127.116.11) and Implementing Standards (Nig.CARs 2015 Part IS.18.104.22.168).
Therefore no government agency, organisation or an individual will launch an RPA/UAV in the Nigerian airspace for any purpose whatsoever without obtaining requisite approvals/permit from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and Office of National Security Adviser (NSA).
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) wishes to reiterate that all applicants and holders of permits to operate RPA/Drones must strictly be guided by safety guidelines.
In addition, operators must ensure strict compliance with the conditions stipulated in their permits and the requirements of the Nig.CARs. Violators shall be sanctioned according to the dictates of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs).
GM, PUBLIC RELATIONS,
NIGERIAN CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY