South Africa’s President Announces the Use of Drones To Monitor their Railways From Theft and Vandalism

When President Cyril Ramaphosa took office as South Africa’s 5th president on February 15, 2108, there was no doubt that he had a lot of work ahead of him. He had to correct the wrongs of his predecessor, President Jacob Zuma who resigned from office on the 14th due to a long list of corruption. According to Ramaphosa, Zuma’s corruption cost the people of South Africa R500Bn, failing to uphold the country’s constitution. Ramaphosa began his political career as an anti-apartheid activist and was who Nelson Mendal had hoped would one day become the President of South Africa. A highly successful businessman, Ramaphosa possesses the skill to tackle his primary goal of strengthening South Africa’s economy.

Since Ramaphosa has been in office, the South African stock market has been stronger than ever before. One of the key aspects of President Ramaphosa’s plan to rebuild the economy relies on the restructuring of the country’s public transportation system. Without a working public transportation system, South Africans struggle to get to and from work and school. Of particular concern are the railways which have been called completely dysfunctional. One of the biggest issues facing Ramaphosa’s railway restructuring comes from people illegally interfering with the project. “The continuous damage, sabotage, theft, and vandalism of rail infrastructure is one of the worst forms of economic crime in this country,” he said. “It has a direct impact on the lives of the millions of South Africans who rely on commuter rail services to travel to work or to study.” On Tuesday, October 27, 2020, President Ramaphosa held a conference with Members of Parliament in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). During the conference, he announced a plan to start using drones to put an end to the vandalism.

Ramaphosa’s goal of a working public transportation system will be made possible with the approval of R900million to establish the PRASA Security Plan having been granted by the National Treasury. PRASA will create a security program complete with increased security personnel and control room support. “Part of the plan is to immediately appoint security personnel and to deploy remotely piloted aircraft systems to conduct virtual patrols of high-risk infrastructure,” President Ramaphosa stated. The specific number of and type of drones to be purchased were not revealed, though there are plenty of options available with these newly appointed funds.

Drones with high resolution cameras are now easy to come across and relatively inexpensive. There are dozens of models PRASA could use from companies like DJI, Parrot, or Yuneec. Another option, one that would serve to increase South African businesses, would be to use a drone company like Aerial Monitoring Solutions. Founded in 2013 by Adam Rosman and based out of Wynberg, Johannesburg, Aerial Monitoring builds drones to surveil large areas of land. Their platform, called the Eagle-Owl, is currently being used by farmers and private security firms. Rosman says he hopes to expand their operations offices to Cape Town. Still, no comment has been made as to what company will be supplying drones for PRASA even though some of the new security measures have begun.

The drones that PRASA will employ will not only be used to deter and catch railway vandals. They will also be used to submit evidence to prosecute such criminals. President Ramaphosa is determined to see South Africa strive, and he knows that providing its citizens with reliable transportation is critical to this success. While the enforcement of PRASA and the assistance of drones will be of great importance, he also knows that they alone will not work. “As we substantially improve security measures on the commuter rail network, our most effective defense against such crimes is the vigilance of rail users and their active involvement in the effort to protect this vital national resource,” President Ramaphosa said in his closing remarks on the 27th. “We call on all South Africans to take a stand against these types of crime, and be part of the effort to build a public transport that is safe, reliable, and affordable.”

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