Traditionally, countries in Africa have been slow to benefit from technological advances. But the small East African nation of Rwanda may be ahead of everyone when it comes to drone technology. After launching the first large-scale drone delivery program (for transporting emergency medical supplies) in 2016, Rwanda today announced a new regulatory policy to streamline commercial drone innovation and approvals. Called “performance-based regulations” the policies specify the level of safety a drone operator has to reach but leave it up to the operator how to achieve it. With drone technology changing so quickly, the Rwandan Aviation Authority didn’t want to hold back innovation by requiring specific designs or technologies as requirements for regulatory approval.
Rwanda broke the news today in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum meeting. The country developed its new policy in collaboration with the WEF’s new Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco. “They came to us and said we want to be the world’s leader on this technology. Help us create the most enabling, well-designed policy,” says Zvika Krieger, who heads technology policy and partnerships at the center. The Rwandan drone policy is the first of what the WEF aims to be a steady stream of pilot projects for template policies that can be adapted over and over for other governments or business sectors. You can learn a lot more about the center in my deep-dive profile.