BY KINGSLEY OMONOBI
ABUJA— President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, unveiled the first indigenous unmanned aerial vehicle, UAV, named GULMA, built by the Nigerian Air Force in Kaduna.
He declared that the giant technological breakthrough of various sectors, particularly the Armed Forces, are pointers to the country’s potential for greater deeds.
In his speech at the unveiling ceremony, President Jonathan said: “We must not forget the lesson of this encouraging moment in our nation’s history; that as Nigerians we are capable of great deeds.
“In the same manner, we must not forget that ahead of us still lie challenges that we must surmount. We must, therefore, stay focused on our common national purpose.
“Today marks another landmark moment in our nation’s history, as we gather here to witness the unveiling of our country’s first indigenous unmanned aerial vehicle, which has been designed and constructed by the Nigeria Air Force.
“Besides its diverse military application, unmanned aerial vehicle provides mankind with a range of benefits in disaster management, power line surveys, law enforcement, telecommunications, weather monitoring, and aerial imaging/mapping.
“It is also rapidly becoming an important tool in news coverage, environmental monitoring, and oil and gas exploration.
“Considering the potential impact of its benefit and versatility, I cannot but say how proud I am of the men and women of our Armed Forces.
“Apart from their commitment to the protection of our sovereignty, they are helping to keep our nation ahead in military science and technology and to keep their civilian counterparts on their toes.”
The Minister of Information, who also supervises the Defence Ministry, Labaran Maku, noted that the true professionalism of the military since 1999 had given rise to the indigenous military-led technological breakthroughs.
Maku said: “The development of surveillance aircraft by the Nigerian Air Force at this crucial moment in our history is a bold statement of our resolve to provide security for the Nigerian populace.
“The GULMA UAV potentially affords the Armed Forces a window of immense opportunities in its task of acquiring timely intelligence and combating criminality, especially in light of the nation’s prevailing security challenges.”
In his speech, Air Marshal Alex Badeh explained that the surveillance aircraft was named GULMA, a word in Hausa that means gossip, because of its function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform.
According to him, the idea began in 2005 with the acquisition of three Aerostar UAVs for the defunct Presidential Committee on Maritime Safety and Security, PICOMSS, which was frustrated “by numerous vendor-related problems that eventually led to the grounding of all the three systems in 2009.
“Following the dissolution of PICOMSS in 2012, the Federal Government handed over the UAVs to the NAF.”
He said NAF Optimising Local Engineering, NAF OLE, which handled the project, did it at the cost of $3 million, half of the $6 million quoted by foreign vendors and also trained 15 UAV pilots at less than half a million dollars compared to the $2 million quoted by foreign vendors to train only three pilots.