Purchase of drones in the fight against insecurity: “Having money is not enough”, argues expert Younoussa Sanfo

International Drone Day has been celebrated every first Saturday of May since 2015. The event will be celebrated on May 7, 2022. On the occasion, we gave the floor to a drone enthusiast, known in particular in the field of computer security but also in the training and awakening of the youngest to technologies. Make yourself comfortable and discover the world of the drone with Younoussa Sanfo, in this interview conducted remotely this Friday, May 6, 2022. An interview in which he appeals to the authorities.

Lefaso.net: What is a drone?

Younoussa Sanfo: A drone or UAV is an aircraft without a passenger or pilot on board that can fly autonomously or be controlled remotely from the ground. The word “drone” is an extrapolation of an English term meaning “drone”. The name was given in the 1930s in the United Kingdom in derision to certain English aircraft to serve as target aircraft for artillery training. Their noisy, slow, lazy flight was more like that of a short-lived bumblebee than that of a queen bee. The name drone then remained and is currently used in almost all languages.

Who invented the first drone?

The drone is above all an invention for military purposes. Several attempts have been made around the world. On July 2, 1917, Frenchman Max Boucher managed to get an unmanned plane off the ground. It will fly over a distance of 500 meters, 50 meters above the ground. The challenge at the time was high: to create a machine capable of carrying out reconnaissance missions without involving the lives of the pilots. But France was not the only country to develop similar projects.

In England, it was the engineer Archibald Low who tried to develop a target plane that could be piloted by wireless telegraphy. In the United States, work is being done on the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane capable of launching aerial torpedoes. Over the years, as technology evolves, the models have been perfected. More and more countries are equipping themselves with military drones to carry out surveillance missions or even eliminate strategic targets.

Younoussa Sanfo, computer security expert and promoter of HorusLabs

Are drones made in Burkina?

Our HORUSLABS laboratory is carrying out research in this direction. We have already assembled devices that fly. But apart from the body of the drone called frame, all the components have been imported. It is difficult to say that these drones are “Made in Burkina” since we import more than 60% of the components. I think other people or structures have assembled drones but we are far from drone manufacturing in Burkina. But at HORUSLABS, we adapt drones for effective use in our territory. It all depends on the specifications of the sponsor.

What are the types of drones and the uses made in the world and particularly in Burkina?

Burkina Faso is not yet advanced in terms of drones even if we see an increasingly frequent use of these devices. There are several types, here are a few:

-The military drone: used in particular for reconnaissance or espionage missions. Some models can even serve as missile launchers.

-The civilian drone: used in particular for leisure purposes, for entertainment. Its price can range from a few hundred thousand to several million CFA francs. It is in this category that we find drones used by photographers and film professionals.

-The educational drone: These are small drones used in an educational setting and designed to be used by children in a classroom. The range and autonomy of these drones are limited. The altitude is generally limited to 10 or 15 meters.

-The professional drone: These devices can fulfill different missions in many sectors, such as agriculture, building inspection, cinema, security, architecture, etc.

- The ambulance drone: it helps rescuers by carrying equipment, such as the defibrillator. Some drones can help firefighters search for victims or even help put out a fire.

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civilian drone

How to become a drone pilot in Burkina?

Burkina Faso has legislated the use of drones in Burkina Faso. The law is strict, the rules are binding. As much as you need a driver’s license for a car, it is now required a license to fly a drone. To obtain this approval provided by the State through the ANAC, the National Civil Aviation Agency and a training center approved by the State, the applicant must undergo training and pass an exam proving his ability to fly. a drone.

What are the main lines of this law on the legal regime applicable to civilian drones in Burkina Faso was adopted on May 17, 2021?

The law differentiates between a civilian recreational drone and a professional civilian drone. The concept of the weight of the drone is very important in view of the law. Any drone, even recreational, must be registered with ANAC and have an identification certificate.

Above all, the drone must not fly over prohibited areas such as military camps, hospitals, schools. The overflight of agglomerations must be the subject of a specific request to the Ministry of Security

The importation of drones is also regulated, you must have an authorization from the Ministry of Security.

Training centers are also subject to these regulations to train pilots and issue certificates recognized by the State.

What analysis do you make of the application of this law since its adoption?

We discussed within the National Association of Drone Specialists and Other Flying Devices (ANSDAV). This association was involved by the National Assembly for the validation before promulgation of the law on remotely piloted aircraft. So we amended the law before it was official. Some of our amendments have been taken into account.

We believe that this law is necessary to regulate the activity and to have safeguards to avoid abuses. But we insisted on the fact that the State will have to remain wise in the application of the law so as not to curb the creativity of young people with an unnecessarily restrictive application of the law.

In a Burkina in the fight against terrorism, some do not understand why Burkina does not have military drones. As a former police inspector and IT security expert, do you understand their concerns?

Like everyone else, I read interventions by people who are offended by the fact that the army does not acquire military drones to fight against terrorism. I also read claims that our army does not have military drones. In my opinion, it is up to the military authorities to judge the advisability of communicating on the question. A military drone is not a toy. If he is armed with missiles or bombs, he can raze a village. I believe that the question must be matured before acting, which does not mean that the army does not have drones for military purposes.

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Expert Younoussa Sanfo handling the remote control of a drone

Who says military drone often says collateral victims on the side of civilians when the strikes are not precise. We saw it in Afghanistan and Pakistan with American drones.

I agree with you. We do not put this type of armament in the hands of the first comer, even military.

How much can a military drone cost?

Effective reconnaissance drones in terms of range and autonomy, with daytime and nighttime visibility addons cost around 100 million FCFA at the entry level and can go up to 150 million FCFA.

Intelligence drones, embedding artificial intelligence modules, effective in terms of autonomy and range can cost up to 200 million. Advanced armed drones are very expensive. They cost 12 billion FCFA and at each exit it is necessary to count 500 million minimum.

There are less expensive armed drones, of the order of a billion the drone, knowing that it is advisable to have at least four of these drones for more efficiency on the battlefield.

Does a country like Burkina need permission from another country to order drones?

That’s politics or geostrategy. I prefer not to answer it. But sometimes, we lack the parameters to understand why African countries do not equip themselves with effective technologies to wage war. Having money is not enough.

While waiting for military drones, can civilian drones which have a low autonomy bring a plus in the fight against terrorism?

Yes, professional drones can be used by operational units but also by intelligence service analysts.

A word on the occasion of this international drone day celebrated on May 7?

We call on all users and all specialists of drones and other ULM type flying devices or others to join the ANSDAV association. Many and organized, we will be stronger to influence political decision-makers to our advantage. For anyone who owns recreational or professional drones, we urge them to comply with the laws of our country. To the authorities, we ask them to stop calling on foreigners to manage our sensitive projects, because the skills exist in Burkina. We export our know-how everywhere, it’s time to trust us.

Interview by Fredo Bassolé


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Purchase of drones in the fight against insecurity: “Having money is not enough”, argues expert Younoussa Sanfo

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