For a team of aviation enthusiasts in Samawa, it all started with a cork and paper plane, powered by a phone battery.
Flying drones has become immensely popular in Iraq. There are multiple pages on social media dedicated to the sport, amateurs buy, sell and trade aviation equipment and there are even clubs that teach how to build your own drone. In 2018, Najaf’s technical university announced that Iraq was able to manufacture its first drone, named the Furat 1.
Mohammed Yakub, who lives in the city of Samawa in the south of Iraq, may well be one of the country’s biggest drone fans. He’s been interested in aviation of all kinds ever since he was a child and as an adult, he and his two children became skilled at kite making. In fact, Yakub recently tried to make his first drone a few years ago – without even knowing that it was a drone – using cork, paper and a phone battery.
“We were encouraged by this and thought about making a larger aircraft, one that could monitor farmland, photograph fires and guard oil pipelines,” Yakub said.
Since then, things have changed a lot. The technology has advanced and now it’s even possible to find videos online that instruct on how to make drones.
“But we still have a lot of problems because of the shortage of parts and spare parts here,” Yakub explained.
Yakub is a member of his local drone-fliers’ club, RC Samawa, and along with others, he is hoping to develop his hobby into a business.
“My team and I are making a plane for two people, and we are waiting for the parts we need to become available,” Yakub says. “These are often expensive and we also need security approvals.”
The delay is due to the fact that Iraq is still considered a security risk so there are a lot of prohibitions and limitations on imports, the drone makers note.
Yakub was extremely happy after his first successful test flight in Samawa’s sports stadium – he and his team are hoping that the local authorities will help them open a special stadium for drone flying so they can start to enter drone contests, as well as bring more attention to the sport and hopefully draw more local fans. But the best thing of all was being able to guide their drone and land it safely too.
“That experience was unique and we were so overjoyed,” Yakub enthuses. “It was like a childhood dream come true.”