RABAT | aerial Surveillance of populations, dissemination of alarm messages, disinfection of public spaces… The Morocco is developing all-round use of drones in the name of the fight against the new coronavirus, in line with a global trend for contactless solutions.
“There is a real excitement: in a few weeks, the demand has tripled in Morocco and in other countries of the region”, underlines Yassine Qamous, the director of “Droneway Morocco”, which distributes on the african continent the products of the world leader in chinese DJI.
According to him, Morocco, which uses drones for several years already, “is one of the most advanced countries of the continent,” in this area with an industrial base dedicated to that purpose, a network of researchers, but also of drivers certified.
Administrative permissions restrictive, have long limited the drones civilians to a few specific uses, such as the shooting of a film, the treatment of agricultural areas, the monitoring of the solar panels or the maps.
But everything changed with the onset of the pandemic COVID-19: these last few weeks, the flying robots have appeared in several cities, where the authorities use them to disseminate alert messages to detect suspicious transactions in the streets, or flushing out illegal gatherings on the terraces of the houses.
Instructions strict containment in place in mid-march are not always respected in the local press, referring in particular to the evenings between neighbors or collective prayers on the rooftops, out of reach of the patrols.
“Technology is vital”
The prefecture of Temara, near Rabat, was launched last week a system of air surveillance of high-precision developed by engineers from a local group, Beti3D, previously specialized in the topography.
Other countries in Europe, Asia or the Middle East have also adopted the technologies deployed in China at the beginning of the pandemic that it is to monitor the movements of citizens, to disinfect the public areas or to develop the deliveries.
“The drones have rapidly emerged as a technology that is vital for public safety agencies during the crisis, since they allow to safely control the public spaces”, analysis the website of DJI, chinese group that covers alone 80 % of the world market.
Like most countries, Morocco uses before any gear imported from China. But the emergence of new needs related to the pandemic is leading to the development of a local production adapted.
“There is a real demand,” says Abderrahmane Krioual, the owner of Farasha, a young shoot that has just raised funds to develop Flap a production line of drones, thermal monitoring and spraying of disinfectant.
Leader in the sector, the department of aeronautics of the international University of Rabat (UIR) has made available to the public authorities its know-how as soon as the end of march, for the deployment of drones equipped with speakers or infrared cameras capable of detecting movements at night or the temperature of the crowds.
“Some projects are in progress before widespread throughout the country,” says Mohsine Bouya, director of “Valuation and transfer” for the IUR.
The teams of the UIR have also developed applications for tracking purposes, but “it is necessary to wait for legislation” to deploy them, he says.
The moroccan authorities do not wish to communicate on the subject, it has not been possible to have a precise mapping of drones deployed since the establishment of the state of health emergency in mid-march.
Unlike other countries, the use of drones for surveillance would not raise a debate in Morocco, where the strategy muscular power in the face of the pandemic elicits a strong membership, according to official indicators.
The uk has very quickly closed its borders and massively deployed security forces on the ground to enforce the strict measures of containment or mandatory wearing of the mask, strengthened since the beginning of ramadan by a night-time curfew.
The non-observance of these instructions is punishable by up to three months in prison or a fine equivalent to 115 euros (175 $).
The security forces have arrested more than 85 000 offenders between 15 march and 30 April, and close to 50 000 have been brought to justice, according to the latest official figures.
According to the authorities, these drastic measures have helped limit the contagion, with 5 053 cases, including 179 deaths since the introduction of the state of public health emergency.
Outside the borders of the kingdom, the high number of arrests, however, has pushed last week a head of operational of the united Nations to include Morocco among the countries where the exceptional measures generate a “culture of lockdown toxic” to human rights. Rabat has rejected that assessment, claiming to have taken measures ‘in line with legal frameworks, respecting fully the rights of Man”.