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Drones, the way to go in disaster management

14 Feb 2017 at 19:26hrs | Views
The initiative by the government to introduce drones for border post patrolling is a development long overdue and welcome for different schemes.

Recently articles were published on porous border posts that have left the country vulnerable to many illegal dealings. Unscrupulous individuals take advantage of the permeable border posts to further their own deals. The government has been shortchanged as individuals evade duty, with local markets being flooded with fake if not hazardous products that are smuggled in through the various border posts.

The Beitbridge border post has improved on its security through the sprucing up of electronic surveillance at the post. However, the challenge still remains at other small border posts where people can easily cross on foot. Most of the Mozambican borders face this challenge. Like the government rightfully noted, it is at such border posts that the use of drones would be highly recommended and effective.

Complementing the physical manning or patrolling of these posts, drones can be used to effectively monitor activities surrounding the borders. These drones, amongst other favorable security benefits, will provide with hard evidence against perpetrators in real time and also curb against corrupt officials as there are chances of being caught on camera whilst engaging in bribe activities.

Besides monitoring porous borders, the government could consider introducing drones to monitor other key sectors and improve towards service delivery and curb irregularities that hamper towards economic growth and security of the nation. A drone is defined as an unmanned aerial vehicle or simply an aircraft without a human pilot aboard and is controlled either autonomously by onboard computers or by the remote control of a pilot on the ground or in another vehicle.

Agriculture has been one of the major contributors towards economic recovery. Government has made tremendous efforts towards supporting farmers through various schemes like the command agriculture and Presidential Well Wishers schemes. There are concerns this farming season, of an overwhelming outbreak and spread of the armyworm and how it is attacking crops, threatening to diminish the expected bumper harvest.

The Government, however, reacted quickly in efforts to curb the spread of the armyworm. To complement its efforts in curbing the spread of plant and animal diseases, by gathering data on areas that have been affected and those that need urgent help, drones could be effectively used as a resourceful means with quick results. Drones can also be used for land mapping and imaging, data collection on crops, soil, pests, livestock tracking, and other effects.

The rainy season was largely defined by floods which resulted in the loss of lives, livestock, buildings and infrastructure. The Meteorological Services Department and Civil Protection Unit (CPU) could also benefit from the use of drones through sensors that can detect water and humidity amongst other conditions. Drones can be used as disaster management tools where they are used to monitor high risk areas that are easily affected by floods. This enables CPU to give early warning to people in drought prone areas to quickly evacuate these areas before being hit by floods. In the same vein, dams and other water reservoirs can be monitored to avoid risks of having areas flooded without concerned stakeholders being alerted on time. In cases where such disasters would have already taken place, drones are used for damage assessment and to determine required response, saving the government on time and resources. In developed countries, drones are already being designed to deliver rapid responses to health emergences, delivering vaccines to areas that are not easily accessible or are far.  

Zimbabwe's wildlife has also suffered a major blow from poachers who have been on rampant, killing wildlife as well as engaging in illegal transportation of these animals. Government could consider the adoption and use of drones in curbing wildlife poaching and trafficking. Mapping large tracts of land, spying would-be poachers, tracking endangered species herding, and scaring dangerous predators are all strategies that have been tried and proved across the world and the country could benefit from adopting such methods.

The Environmental Management Agency could also benefit, by using drones to mitigate disasters like veld fires and conserve the environment.    

However, it is imperative to note how key it is for government to monitor also the use of drones so that security concerns are not breached as well as the illegal threat posed by hostile drone users.

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Source - Tatenda Gono
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