Recently, the BIUST Commercial Drones Team has added to their fleet of Drones a highly rated Fixar 007 Drone as they aim to continue expanding the services they render to the community and private institutions. The BVLOS Pilot for the BIUST Commercial Drones team Mr Ontiretse Bagwasi, who is also the lead trainer became the first person in Southern Africa to be licensed to fly Latvia manufactured Fixer Drone. Mr Bagwasi takes the newsletter reporter through the new acquisition and his team’s evolution.
REPORTER: Firstly, introduce the Fixer Drone
BAGWASI: The Fixar drone is a VTOL (Vertical take-off and landing) drone which can travel up to a maximum of 65km. The drone can carry a payload of up to 2kg and has a flight time of 60mins. It has many different capabilities such as blood samples transportation, surveying and mapping, night patrols, surveillance, powerlines inspection, waterpipes inspection, railway inspection etc. The drone was manufactured by a company called Fixar Global in Latvia but was procured through their local representative Carerra Holdings/Skytech Drones.
REPORTER: What are the Primary objectives and goals for this BIUST Drones project?
BAGWASI: The BIUST Drones project has several objectives such as drone research, service to the community, drone pilot training, and assembly and manufacture.
Drone research: To undertake research on the drone space and explore different ways of improving the current technology surrounding drones. At the moment we are engaged in research on a framework for drone delivery, power optimization, and swam synchronization among others.
Service to the community: We provide consultancy services to the community for whoever is interested in using drones for a particular purpose.
Drones Pilot Training: We offer a short course for aspiring drone pilots
Assembly and manufacture: We are about to embark on a project to now build an assembly plant which will eventually lead to us designing and producing our own drones.
REPORTER: What are the milestones and new timelines?
BAGWASI: So far we have successfully piloted medical deliveries with drones from BIUST to Lecheng, Mokgware, Moremi and Mogapi through our Drones for Health 2020 project.
We have also successfully conducted a mapping exercise for the Department of town planning at Monarch Area in Francistown. We have used drones to maintain the coal bunkers through the BPC Bunker Inspection exercise and have since incorporated some of the drone programming exercises into the BIUST Computer Science Curriculum.
REPORTER: Introduce the BIUST Commercial Drones group
BAGWASI: The group operates under the commercial wing of the university known as the BIUST Enterprise. The team, currently under the leadership of Dr Thabo Semong is housed under the Department of Computer Science and provides key services to the industry that requires drone services. Our flagship project is the drones for health project, where we use drones to deliver medical samples including blood to remote areas. We are a team of experienced UAV Pilots who have been in the industry since 2016. At the moment our inventory currently has 19 drones with different types and capabilities.
REPORTER: Who are the key influencers and project stakeholders?
BAGWASI: We have people that we are collaborating with on various projects. Our main key stakeholder is the Civil Aviation Authority Botswana, they are our regulators who assist us with drone licences and aviation issues. They are integral to our operations as we always consider drone operations to be very serious and sensitive. Our stakeholders depend on the kind of project we are doing at a particular time.
As for our phase one blood delivery project, we teamed up with UNFPA, the Ministry of Health and Central Medical Stores among others. For a different project (Mapping and surveying), we have had working relations with the Department of Town Planning.
REPORTER: In conclusion what would you say is your passion regarding this project?
BAGWASI: I am a technology fan, I like exploring and interacting with technology on a regular basis. When Dr Mpoeleng came to BIUST he managed to bring out the best in me by working with me on this project. I had to undergo training and eventually became the lead pilot and trainer for the drones’ team. My passion for technology and community outreach mainly drove me towards using what I love most to achieve the objectives of the team.