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Botswana breaks into UAV market, unveils first locally manufactured drone

Botswana’s Aeronautical Solutions has developed the country’s first Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to be used in anti-poaching exercises, and for security and surveillance purposes.

Funded by Botswana Innovation Fund (BIF), the drone project is a collaboration between Aeronautical Solution and Botswana Digital & Innovation Hub’s (BDIH) partners and network.

BIF is a government arm created to promote innovation by providing seed and early-stage funding to companies and organisations registered with Botswana Digital & Innovation Hub. 

The fund also encourages transfer skills to citizens by providing cash grants to be used for institutional training and on-the-job training programmes.

Botswana’s foray into the UAV space comes at a time when drones are increasingly being used across Africa to help with security issues, health delivery and many other areas, including fighting rhino poaching in South Africa.

In Cape Town, due to the spate of violent attacks on tourists on Table Mountain, the South African government announced plans to deploy drones and install cameras to ensure the safety of those visiting the tourist site.

Similarly, Rwanda has also since deployed drone technology in fighting malaria in the East African country

In the case of Botswana, Thero Matenge, co-founder of Aeronautical Solutions, said the company’s UAV, named Shepherd V1, could be used for diverse applications, from anti-poaching to security and surveillance, as well as for agricultural and farm management.

“Currently, it has the capacity to fly within a 15km radius, which is determined by its connection to the transmitter. But, the drone itself has the capacity to fly for longer distances when connected to a satellite,” said Matenge.

He said the company has localised some of the technology and developed a system that allows for the drone to be operated in a similar fashion to an aircraft.

Sithembile Dingake, BIF coordinator, implored the nation to support and buy the technology, while the company sets eyes beyond the country’s borders. She said: “We should be consumers of our own innovations.”

She added: “We have seen incremental innovation in what Aeronautical Solutions has done and there are more opportunities to advance the technology in the potential dimensions the drone can do.

“Through the funding from BIF, and the additional resources provided by BDIH, we have seen this project take flight to where it is now, and we’re committed to seeing it become a pioneer and sustainable player in the local aeronautical industry.”

Meanwhile, Aeronautical Solutions has developed a flight training programme to expose children to the aeronautical industry.

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