‘Why AIB Didn’t Deploy Drones at Chopper Crash Site’

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By Chinedu Eze

The Commissioner of Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Akin Olateru has given reasons why the agency did not deploy Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAE), known as drones to the site of the helicopter crash at Opebi, Lagos on August 28, 2020, saying the accident happened at enclosed area and the operators of the drone were yet to be licenced.

Olateru, said it would have been the easiest way to gather materials at crash sites, disclosing that the agency was in the process of normalising the documentations of the investigators, which would enable them to use drones in case of any accident or incident in the future.

But he said the first stage was to train technical personnel for that purpose.
The Commissioner made this known at the weekend, during at the Gateway Forum interaction organised by the League of Airport and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos.

According to him, the recently trained accident investigators were yet to be licensed by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

He added that the agency’s inability to use drones did not in any way hinder its investigation of the crash, reiterating that the preliminary report would be released to the public in the next few weeks.

He explained: “No, we didn’t use drone at the accident crash site. AIB is a responsible agent of government. We can’t flout any government rules and regulations.

“To operate a drone, you need a license and we are yet to sort that out with NCAA.

“In getting the license, part of the requirements is to train your people on how to handle the drones, which we have satisfied. The operator has to be licensed by NCAA.

So, we are in the process of normalising our documentations.

“You will agree with me that any company or agency of government must constantly review its processes to enhance service delivery. That is one thing we do here, we see how we do it and how we can make a betterment or simplify the processes or get a better result for better performance.”

He added: “The non-deployment of equipment didn’t affect our level of material gathering. The fact is drone is very essential when you have a wider area of crash.

“When you have a crash spanning about half a mile or a mile. It takes time to walk through that to gather information or evidence, but for this one, we were fortunate the crash site was a bit contained.

“It was not over a large expanse of land. So, that is why we didn’t really miss it, but we hope to fast track our application with NCAA. But, on that day, LASEMA used their drones to take some pictures. “We did very well. Have and gathered the right information. Deployment of drones will happen once we have necessary permit or licensing from NCAA.”

Olateru also disclosed that plans have reached an advanced stage for the construction of AIB Training School to be situated in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, for the training of investigators and other industry experts even outside the country.

According to him, the school is awaiting the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), stressing that once this is done, it would commence work immediately.

The AIB boss explained that it was working with the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria for the development of the curriculum for students, stressing that this would save capital flights on training for the country, lamenting paucity of funds, which he said had hindered the progress of the Bureau.