BY: Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb Senior News Journalist. 

Local distributor of IT products Rectron has partnered with drone manufacturer DJI to establish the Rectron Drone Academy, based in Midrand, Johannesburg.

The academy, unveiled this morning, will initially offer three courses that focus on different aspects of drone proficiency. These are the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) Maintenance Technician certification, Remote Pilot Licence and Beyond Visual Line of Sight certification.

Each course takes three to four months and will include theoretical elements as well as practical training.

South Africa’s drone industry is rapidly expanding, with a range of innovative applications being developed for commercial and non-commercial use.

Despite the growth and potential of the drone industry, there are several challenges that need to be addressed to ensure its sustainable growth, says Rectron. These include the skills shortage, limited applications for rural areas and regulatory red tape.

Speaking at the launch, Andre Witbooi, learning and development manager at Rectron, noted that as a distributor of ICT products, including drones, Mustek-owned Rectron is on a mission to diversify its business, and the academy will promote further use of drones across industries.

The company currently offers learnerships focused on upskilling youth in digital skills.

Construction, agriculture and insurance are the top three sectors that depend highly on the use of drones locally, according to Witbooi. However, the skills shortage hampers further growth.

“As the world moves towards a more digital economy, we need to ensure our youth have the right skills to take part in it,” says Witbooi.

“The Rectron Drone Academy aims to provide relevant training for a future-proof career in the drone space. For many businesses that need to survey large areas, drones offer a cost-effective alternative to helicopters and aircraft.

“When it came to structuring the courses, we consulted with the NTSU Drone Academy and DJI to ensure students have the right foundations and training to forge a career path as a professional. All our courses are accredited with the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).”

Rectron says it has invested heavily in the required equipment and establishment of the academy.

The drone industry is one of the fastest-growing industries globally, with an estimated market value of $100 billion, according to Goldman Sachs.

First developed for the military industry, drones have over the last several years made their way into the consumer space and are now growing in popularity in various commercial activities.

Also speaking at the event, Thandanani Manyathi, regional coordinator at the Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT SETA), noted SA’s commercial drone industry contributes significantly to the country’s economy through job creation.

As a partner of SACAA, MICT SETA is a skills development institution established in terms of the Skills Development Act of 1998, with a mission to generate, facilitate and accelerate the processes of quality skills development at all levels in the MICT sector in South Africa.

“Drones have proved to be beneficial to many key industries, such as modernising the agricultural sector to enable more efficiency, precision and reliability when farmers are working with crops,” explained Manyathi.

“Many businesses are now migrating to the digital space, and as MICT SETA, we have established a 4IR [fourth industrial revolution] department and we now have 32 qualifications focused on tech skills, because we acknowledge the importance of 4IR skills. We have a 4IR advisory committee where any business can come and inquire on any tech-related issue. “

According to the Drone Council of South Africa, while drone regulations have been enforced locally, the speed at which the industry moves makes it extremely challenging for regulations to keep up with the technology.

The first cohort of five students will start class on 20 February at the academy’s campus in Midrand.

To enrol at the Rectron Drone Academy, students need to have completed Matric. While maths and science are not a prerequisites to be accepted for a course, they are advantageous.


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