The use of drones or remotely piloted aircraft systems is forecast to grow exponentially.
Globally the drone business is proving to be one of the most explosive new growth industries in recent years, with South Africa a relatively late bloomer.
The South African drone industry is to generate R2 billion in 2017, according to a latest research conducted by economist Dr Roelof Botha
The research also indicates that the industry has a potential to create a total of 30 830 informal jobs and 3 600 formal jobs.
In less than five years we will see unmanned aerial vehicles being flown on a myriad of missions doing good.
They can be a game-changer on the African continent.
Drones can be used for precision farming to help farmers decide when and where to apply fertiliser or irrigate crops.
They can be used in mining and to avert disasters.
Here a seven South African drones’ firms to keep an eye on:
Since its inception, RocketMine became the first in the mining industry to receive full licensing and certification from the South African Aviation Authority.
Now, RocketMine has the largest fleet in Africa and is a dominant force in the drone market in Africa.
Last September, the company attracted the interest of Delta Drone, a global player that acquired the local firm from Public Display Technologies Pty Ltd. (PDT).
RocketMine is the main licensed operator of commercial drones in the mining industry of South Africa.
It provides professional drone survey & mapping services to corporate customers, such as Anglo American, South32 and Exarro Resources on fixed-term contracts.
It also has the single largest fleet of drones in Africa, boasting over 21 aircraft, culminated of both fixed-wing and multi-rotor type design.
RanMarine is a Dutch-based environmental technology enterprise founded by South African entrepreneur Richard Hardiman.
The company has developed a solar-powered aqua-drone that can automatically clean up water pollution and waste in waterways and ports to support the natural resilience of our oceans.
Its fully autonomous drones swim through the water, collecting waste and other non-biodegradables, whilst gathering data about the environment.
RanMarine drones are learning machines, continuously communicating with one another in the water, and transmitting back to a central database on land.
The WasteShark is designed for round-the-clock autonomous waste collection. It also scans and monitors the environment, sending data back to central command and communicating with other drones in the water.
The startup is only looking to tap into 0.5% of the global market at this stage with its smart IoT devices solution for drones.
WiPo Wireless Power, a South African-based startup, is developing a wireless charger for drones to allow them to fly autonomously and continuously.
The wireless charger will also enable utilities to use drones for predictive maintenance rather than corrective maintenance.
WiPo Wireless Power was founded in early 2017, after winning a GAP (Gauteng Accelerator Programme) award, which was issued by The Innovation Hub in 2016.
The startup was initially set up to deal with the load shedding South Africa experienced in 2015.
The South African startup is likely to compete with WiTricity in the US, Solarce in Canada and GET (Global Energy Corporation) in Russia, who are all looking at developing wireless power solutions.
Aerial Monitoring Solutions (AMS) was founded in 2013 to fulfil a niche in the market for low cost, customised unmanned aerial systems.
The team has a strong background of aircraft manufacturing and maintenance and has allowed AMS to position itself as a leading Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) manufacturing and maintenance company.
It was founded in Wynberg, Johannesburg in 2013 by Adam Rosman out of a garage.
The company’s main clients are farmers and security companies that use the drones for agriculture monitoring, farm security, game counting and anti-poaching.
The Eagle Owl created by AMS in South Africa is a customisable, intelligent UAV designed as a cost-effective answer to the African market, including applications such as wildlife management, health & safety, agriculture, security, and infrastructure.
AMS cost-effective modular designs ensure easy transportation, simple customisation, and minimal downtime.
DroneClouds is a small startup with a big vision to help farmers find crop issues sooner using drones, satellites and very smart agri experts.
The Cape Town-based firm was formed after Afrolabs and IntegriSense (top software development and remote sensing companies) joined forces.
The company was founded in 2015 by Theo Pistorius.
It helps farmers increase yield by giving them to-the-point, actionable crop insights using drones, satellite, mobile, the cloud and agri experts.
United Drone Holdings is an innovative and entrepreneurial firm focused drone services business.
It provides turnkey solutions to commercial and industrial industries looking to optimise workflow, security, and core business functions by using advanced drone technology.
“We take pride in being able to harness the creativity and ingenuity that allow our engineers to reach beyond their limits, and thereby embodying our passion and pedigree into every drone we manufacture,” the company said.
Its flagship drones have been built to satisfy the needs of the mining, security, and movie industry, with standards that exceed Civil Aviation Authority safety and performance requirements.
The Skywalker is an all-in-one solution for creating high-resolution visual-spectrum aerial maps. The fixed wing platform offers incredible endurance and scope of coverage, with 40 minutes of flight time and up to 100 ha of coverage area.
It’s the perfect platform for regularly acquiring highly detailed and actionable data for large-scale operations such as mining, town planning, farming, construction, and conservation, as well as search and rescue emergency response.
UAV Industries is the only company in Africa to have both a certified drone training school and a drone operators certificate. Allowing UAV Industries, the necessary feedback between operations and training.
UAV Industries as a commercial drone operators’ concept was founded in 2014.
In refining the business case and working with the drone industry and regulators towards the South African legislation, initial funding was raised, allowing UAV Industries to initiate the business in Cape Town, South Africa, and employ Braam Botha as an operations manager.
In last October, the company became the first drone operator in Africa to be certified to train pilots and operate drones, receiving their Remote Operating Certificate from The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).
Already one of the country’s leading training providers, the announcement made UAV Industries the only company on the continent to provide insured and legal flights using their pilots for various industries in South Africa – film, agriculture, utilities, insurance, and property, to name a few.