South Africa’s economy is set to earn around R2-billion and gain about 3 600 formal jobs through the economic output generated by the local drone industry, Commercial Aviation Association of South Africa economist Dr Roelof Botha believes.
Speaking at Drone Con, in Midrand, last week, Botha said it was “clear, after comparing 2015 data to the latest economic-impact assessment,” that the domestic drone industry was expanding exponentially.
“Globally, technological advancement has transformed a vast number of industries over the past decade, but sectors such as real estate, mapping, infrastructure-monitoring and shipping have remained relatively unchanged. But drones are dramatically changing these and a host of other applications,” he highlighted.
Botha, who was commissioned by United Drone Holdings (UDH), in partnership with the Commercial Unmanned Aircraft Association of Southern Africa (CUAASA), to conduct research into the drone sector, further found that there were currently around 55 000 drones in the country, with around 3 382 commercial ones.
His study further highlighted that the drone economy could contribute around 30 000 informal jobs.
UDH CEO Sean Reitz said the study’s results were “really exciting” for the drone industry, as well as the economy.
“The commercial applications of drones are limitless; they go where humans can’t or shouldn’t go and make tasks safer, faster and often more accurate. Drones have proved to be beneficial to many key industries. The economic-impact assessment reveals that drones have benefited our economy and will impact unemployment rates as well, which is very encouraging,” he noted.
But Botha added that, while industry growth can be regarded with certainty, “inappropriate regulatory structures” are hindering progress.
“Unless the South African transport authorities create a business-friendly and efficient set of regulations for commercial drone activities, it may lead to a siphoning of jobs and economic activity to neighbouring States that do,” he warned.
According to Botha, the methods used to determine his findings included distributing sample surveys among CUAASA members, estimating and concluding results and determining the average multiplier effects on the sector, as well as comparing results with South African/European Union and the South African/US gross domestic product ratios.