In an effort to accommodate emerging technology as well as provide checks against abuse, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has moved to review the spectrum and regulate the deployment of drones in the country.
The commission noted that the unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) would find more applications in various aspect of national development in the future. Hence, the need for proper regulation of drone has become necessary, especially for Nigeria security and disaster management.
Speaking at a Stakeholders Consultative Forum in Lagos with the theme, “Regulation On The Use of Drones,” the EVC, Umar Danbatta said that drones has gone through substantial development in recent years and its market has shown exponential growth, similar to other new technologies.
Danbatta, who was represented by the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders’ Engagement, Adewolu Adeleke stated the commission deemed it strategic to consult with operators, investors, and other stakeholders including the security and aviation authorities in reviewing the guidelines on the use of 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz bands to accommodate emerging technologies whether for use of national security or commercial services.
He noted that “these changes will give an added opportunity to the use of drones in the bands without causing interference to the adjacent and incumbent services.” Danbatta affirmed that “all equipment to be used must be duly type-approved in accordance with the Commission’s Type Approval Regulation.
Speaking further Danbatta said, “Furthermore, you may wish to note that the guidelines for the use of 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz spectrum bands are presently limited in its condition of use and therefore requires amendments.
“Toward this end, the new draft guidelines have incorporated some changes which include but not limited to duty cycle, transmission, reception frequencies, power, distance, speed and weight.”
However, Danbatta called on all stakeholders to leverage the opportunity provided by the 60GHz frequency band which exists on 57-64 GHz and now officially available for use once the necessary work is completed on the guidelines.
On his part, the Director, Spectrum Administration NCC, Engr. (Dr.) Austin Nwaulune said, “among many other challenges, meeting the spectrum requirements for drone is essential in fully realizing the potential for growth that drones bring with them.
According to him, frequency spectrum is used for command and control, and identification as well as for payload transmissions such as on-board cameras sending information to the ground.
Nwalunne stated that drones have found application in several areas that are contributing to the development of nations, especially in security surveillance, shipping, disaster management, archaeological surveys, geographic mapping, agriculture and many kinds of monitoring as well as law enforcement processes using devices.
“Currently, the Nigerian Communications Commission in its effort to optimize usage and benefits of the spectrum is advancing the administrative standards by establishing technical parameters to use the 2.4 and 5.8 GHZ bands as the frequency for deployment of drones and other emerging technologies
“Over the years, the Commission has had guidelines on both the use of 2.4 GHZ and 5.8 GHz Bands for Wireless Access System (WAS). And these are all license-exempt bands (ISM Bands) which studies have shown to be suitable for drone’s deployment globally.”
Nwaulune added that the prevailing guidelines on the use of 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz band do not cover the general requirements for the control of drones and payload links such as on-board cameras, sensors, etc. with technical parameters such as transmitting power, coverage distance, modulation schemes among others that were not envisaged at the time the existing guidelines were being crafted.
Also speaking at the forum, the board chairman of the NCC, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, said the commission would do all within its capacity to support security agencies with the required technologies to ease their operation.
On the drone regulation project, the NCC is working with Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Nigerian Institute of ICT Engineers (NIICTE), the Nigerian Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (NIEEE), among others.
Meanwhile, representative from NCAA, Nwafor Martins, emphasized the need for stronger synergy among stakeholders especially the NCC, ONSA and NCAA in establishing an all-encompassing regulatory framework that will stipulate the roles of each agency and the interplay among them without friction.