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Drones Raise Hopes and Questions in Africa



From VOA Learning English, this is the Technology Report.

Military leaders in Africa want unmanned aerial vehicles to help guard borders and large open spaces. But engineers and makers of these aircraft, called UAVs, say they could do much more. They could fly medicines to those in need, protect wildlife, and transport goods quickly and at low cost.

Kenyan engineer James Munyoki has built several UAVs, commonly called drones. His latest one can carry an object weighing up to six kilograms. At first, drones were designed to carry a camera for military or security purposes. Mr. Munyoki says UAVs can now be used to take pictures for news media or private use.

Park rangers in South Africa are flying small drones over wildlife areas to watch endangered rhinos. Some experts say drones could document the movement of refugees or record human rights abuses. They say the aircraft could help in search and rescue operations and fly aid to hard-to-reach areas. But other experts warn that opening up civilian air space to UAVs could create problems.

Kristin Sandvik is the Director of the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies. She says a drone carrying a camera may be used to take aid to a refugee camp. But, she asks, what happens to the information it may gather? Drones are costly and not yet ready for widespread use. The sensor technology needed to prevent drones from crashing into things needs to be improved. And, in most countries, drones cannot be flown without laws governing their use. Opponents and supporters of drones do not agree on much. But they do agree that the technology is coming, likely within the next 10 years.