The director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi, has said the agency is working to deliver its mandate of developing the Nigerian digital sector by building a regulatory instrument for emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (ai), robotics and drones.
Speaking at the 2nd Drone Technology Expo and Conference (DRONETECX 2022) themed ‘Harnessing the Convergence of Drones and Information Technology in Advancing Digital Economy’ in Lagos, Abdullahi pointed out that the digital society and emerging technology pillar in National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) covers the aspect of drones and information technology in advancing digital economy.
According to him, the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR), a subsidiary of the agency, is currently undertaking research activities in the areas of drones and other unmanned vehicles, particularly on applications related to agriculture and security.
“In the past century, mankind had explored and successfully conquered the skies and started utilising them for the benefit of humanity. Starting with the Wright brothers and their first powered flight, the invention of rockets that helped launch satellites, to invention of jet engines that make commercial aviation possible and so many more fascinating inventions around the aviation sector. This triumph over the skies was an important stepping-stone towards taking flight to the new era – the unmanned aerial revolution,” he said.
The NITDA boss noted that aerial robots, commonly known as ‘drones’, are an emerging technology area set to change lives for good. The fast development of GPS and lithium polymer batteries can be attributed as an enabler for these drones to soar in the last two decades.
“Drone technology has been spreading like wildfire through various fields and applications such as cinematography, inspection, mapping, surveillance etc. Nowadays, the simplicity of drone technology and its low cost have engaged the imaginations of millions of professionals and hobbyists around the world, inspiring great ideas and vast applications.”
Abdullahi explained that logistics is one of the key areas that NITDA is looking to harness using drone technology so that Nigeria will create opportunities to advance the digital economy.
“As e-commerce gains traction globally, the application of drones for quick delivery of packages is gaining momentum. Global e-commerce giants such as Amazon are already experimenting with drone delivery technologies. We dream that, soon, we can help our e-commerce giants like Jumia and Konga adopt these technologies to enhance their competitiveness in the sector.
“While speed may be the first thing that comes to mind when we discuss drone package delivery, the environmental benefits are also worthy of consideration. A study compared drones to truck delivery and found that CO2 emissions alone are 200 times more when we use trucks and the cost of operation is 260 times more. Overall, drones were reported to accomplish delivery tasks in 20 per cent of the time it takes a delivery vehicle and are far less polluting,” he said.
The DG quoted that the market for drones is estimated to be $127 billion across a variety of industries. Notably, the commercial use of drones will predominantly affect agriculture, logistics and entertainment; key areas Nigeria will benefit from economically.
He added that due to the ability to cover large areas quickly and cheaply, drone use in agriculture is anticipated to reduce the cost of agricultural processes. On a macroeconomic scale, the integration of drones could create more than 100,000 jobs, primarily in manufacturing and operations. This is an opportunity for Nigeria to provide jobs for our teeming youths in this sector.
“Nigeria is in dire need of developing its technological capacity, especially in the digital era, where national wealth creation is anchored to the technological prowess of a nation.
“NITDA, under the direction of the ministry, established the NCAIR in November 2020 as a digital innovation and research facility focused on artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies such as drones.
“The National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics is currently undertaking research activities in the areas of drones and other unmanned vehicles, particularly on applications related to agriculture and security. The centre’s focus areas include machine and deep learning, blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), intelligent robotics & drones, extended reality (XR), digital manufacturing and prototyping.
“I encourage all drone technology enthusiasts to explore areas of collaboration with the centre to accelerate the development of indigenous technologies related to drones and other unmanned vehicles.
“I would like to reiterate that the federal government is keen on encouraging more of these initiatives to be developed to leverage the available opportunities offered by digital technologies to innovate and enhance our nation’s competitiveness and by extension, the economic growth and prosperity of our dear country, Nigeria,” he added.