By Oyeniyi Iwakun
In this exclusive interview with MMS Plus reporter, Engr. Ronald Opeyemi Ajiboye, a Multi-Talented scholar, Entrepreneur, Aerospace Engineer and the CEO/Founder of McRonald AutoDrone Centre Ltd, one of the leading and foremost indigenous Aerospace & Automotive Company in Nigeria and perhaps Africa gave a revealing analysis on the multiple uses and how to handle drones.
In our last interview, you talked about your company’s drone projects, can you just restate it again?
As enumerated in our previous discussion, our services are bifurcated into two sessions; Drones and Automotive services. Our drone services include, full system objective maintenance and repairs, customized design and manufacturing, Propulsion system optimization, fleet management, sales, performance tuning, professional training and advisory services in Drones and Automotive. Basically, we solve influential problems using tech-related approaches. We currently produce customized drones for the purpose of precision Agriculture, Aerial Photography, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and harmful material sensing. It is an integrated autodrone centre on the go, with mobile facility and we have got credible experts on board globally.
On a general note, what are drones used for?
Drones can serve various purposes. The idea of making drones fly isn’t the most complicated but the problems it’s solving. So, we incorporate this into our design to factor the payload and the technology to be mounted on it. In other words, flying is one and technology that is mounted on it is another. So the application of drones may be limitless. However, the most common includes, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, Precision Agriculture, Delivery, Fun and Acrobatics and Aerial Photography.
Can these Drones also be successfully used for election monitoring and tracking of criminals?
Yes! It can be used for election monitoring and crime detection. It hovers over defined geometry and monitors all activities. Also, we can deploy more than one to make it more effective. It’s also used for pipeline surveillance.
Okay! Can we take them one by one and come back to Surveillance later?
Alright! No problem.
How do you use drones for Reconnaissance purpose?
It’s for military monitoring and observation of locations and points to identify and locate an enemy. Drone does the function as well.
Precision Agriculture, just as the name implies mean to be more correct, efficient and effective in terms of a given approach with reduced percentage of errors or with no error at all. This is how it works, you have a farm that definitely contains weed which you surely need to control. However, the weeds are not concentrated in a particular area because they are mostly mixed with crops. Instead of applying pesticides around the entire area or fertiliser in the other way round, a drone can be used in that regards to hover round the area and give a precise geometry of where to apply and where not to apply. It can also show the presence of rodents and other unwanted things on the farmland. It’s best used on a large mechanized farm.
In this way, you are being precise with your approach by reducing excessive application of resources, by reducing time and energy spent on control and optimization, reducing cost, increasing efficiency and effectiveness which in turn leads to productivity.
What are the uses of a Delivery Drone?
Delivery drone is basically based on transportation of products or humans. It’s very fast and easy. Come summer Dubai promised to start using drones for taxi. Also in the United States (US) Amazon started using drones for their deliveries and we hope one day Jumia and Konga would also start the same.
So drones can also be used for humans and goods transport?
Yes, it can perform multiple functions. Like I earlier said, just that the payload must be factored into the design before producing.
Drones for Fun and Acrobatics?
Fun and acrobatics drones are mainly designed for fun as it is. Just fly it and control it in various ways to suit your choice. Some go on the field to use it for competition and kids fly as well with control boards just to keep themselves busy and fulfilled. It’s fun sometimes to fly a toy Drone.
Drones for Aerial Photography?
Aerial Photography is to capture images and videos at stretch and from optimised views. Replacing the use of helicopters for same purpose. Extended images from high altitude and from far relative distance is a key usage of drones. With high resolution cameras mounted on it, (dependent on the lens and other factors) they are able to capture images from afar and give you the feedback on the ground whilst capturing up.
You may also use it for live feed and many more, basically a photo work. It also functions effectively for Movie (Nollywood, Bollywood) productions. In fact, they even use it more because when put into use, drones bring about the best of all jobs.
What about handling of the drones?
Of course, that’s what we do! We ensure that you are adequately trained on how to handle it before releasing the drones to the owners. Over time we have trained the handlers on how to fly and they do it well.
Going back to Reconnaissance and Surveillance drones? Can they technologically penetrate and capture events inside a building or interior of a covered environment?
Definitely, it can be used (in cases of criminal activities or rigging for example). There are higher technologies that can be used in building a drone that will show electronic images of what’s happening in the interior of a covered structure or a hidden place. We can use Infra red cameras but it will only show electronic images.
Can you please expatiate further on electronic images?
Yes! They convert the images to thermal images and everything will be captured as thermal images. We can get lots of clues but mostly it’s only used to determine the state of things in the building and to be able to create a better conclusion. You will see the pictures and everything in there as normal images. These captured images can be used for legal defenses or better still reliable evidences and It will be properly analyzed by experts
Can it reveal the faces of those inside the building?
Not exactly the faces but anthropometrics of the people. Similar to images you see in terrorist movies when the terrorist is communicating or an alien is communicating with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) but they don’t want you to see their faces. You can know the size of the body height and the way they look and easily match it with suspected person’s which could lead to a logical conclusion. Again, since it can monitor and capture events outside the building clearly, people inside might not be difficult to identify as there will be movements in and out
Have you built that kind of drone before?
Nothing is impossible. Challenges make us innovators and engineers. Our work is to solve problems that will exist or already existed. Everything is possible even if we have not built such before. We can make it, it’s even simpler. We don’t have to build the technology anymore; we buy the technology and install it on the Drone. People have done it before and we will just make it better.
For a prospective customer, what’s the cost of a drone?
It depends on the type of drone. For instance, we make customized drones. It is after defining the problems and surrounding factors, that we can decide a price tag. However, there are cases where you may not need to buy a Drone because it will be of higher cost since it’s in the marker already. For instance, for the purpose of photography except we are helping you to buy it, it’s only better if we make the ones that are customized for a problem. So first, we need to know what the problem is and other factors before we can put a price on it. Like we don’t make normal Toyota cars but customised so that it can be a bullet proof Toyota car that has the function of landing on water. That’s what we do
What are the sizes and life span of a drone?
Factors influencing longevity and size includes; Payload: which has to do with what it is going to be carrying. It can be as big as an aircraft and it can be as small as a phone in size. Secondly, Materials: equipments used in producing it are different. Some part are with reinforced materials like composites, glass and carbon fibers including natural composites like wood while some other may just be aluminium. Thirdly, Propulsion: which involves the thrust and power, the engine capacity and propeller blades dimensions is also a factor. Another sacrosanct issue is the handling of the Drone and few others.
Can you just give a hint on the cost of an average drone?
Like I said earlier, it varies. We have very small sized drones. As small as the bottle of coke for a fixed wing and even the cost can also be compared with that of a phone. However, a drone can also go for as low as you can think of. At least, you can see a toy for about one hundred (100) dollars.
What are the problems associated with drones?
Problems associated with drones can be simplified into handling, technicalities, parts replacement, repairs. In short, the problems are minimal. It’s like any other electronic device.
How would you react to the recent decision of Federal Government to start regulating the commercial use of drones?
I am indifferent on this note. Nonetheless, I would rather support the policies because all sectors must be set with compliance and regulatory standards which is normal. For example you need a license to fly a commercial Drone publicly which is governed by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).