Municipalities in South Africa are taking advantage of the potential of drones to improve service delivery, while cutting costs.
Mpumalanga’s Gert Sibande District Municipality has trained drone pilots, who are ready to take to the skies to improve service delivery.
“The municipality observed that there are cheaper, safer and faster methods of performing day-to-day functions through the use of drones,” says municipal spokesperson Bongi Ka Dube.
“They can be used for the assessment of infrastructure, monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions, community safety purposes, land surveillance and many other things,” he adds.
Ka Dube believes municipalities should always look to technology to enhance their operations.
“The world is transforming to the science of big data and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This is changing the way things are done, including the performance of municipal functions. Research is critical in understanding how drone technology or any other technological advancements can assist municipalities in executing their functions,” says Ka Dube.
In Limpopo’s Greater Tzaneen Local Municipality, drones were used during the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown to educate residents about the virus. The municipality used an external drone operator to deliver key messaging from the mayor about COVID-19, via loudspeakers which were attached to the drone.
Delivered in the most commonly-used languages in the area, the messages included reminders about social distancing and regular hand washing. Municipal spokesperson Neville Ndlala said the drones enabled the municipality to quickly reach areas that were difficult to access.
“We wanted to send important safety messages and capture footage. Drones enabled us to reach areas that are normally difficult to access and to broadcast messages to people who were unaware of or simply ignored government’s messages. They also enabled us to ensure compliance with the regulations.”
The municipality will continue to explore the use of drones after the lockdown. “We see great potential for drones to help with combatting and preventing crime, and collecting important geographical and environmental management information.”
The Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development is also using drones to monitor important construction projects. “When we came up with this project, we were looking at how we could deliver in a timeous, cost-effective and more efficient manner,” says Amanda Moletsane, chief director of the infrastructure and planning division.