Skies open for drone flyers in Kenya

Wednesday March 21 2018

A drone used for filming.

A drone used for filming. Kenyans can now fly drones after acquiring a licence from the regulator. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

VICTOR KIPROP
By VICTOR KIPROP
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Kenyans can now fly drones after acquiring a licence from the regulator.

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) has said that regulations on use of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have taken effect.

"Drones are now legal," KCAA announced in a notice in local dailies on Wednesday.

“The regulations apply to any person who imports, tests, operates, procures, assembles, manufacturers or maintains remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAs) in Kenya,” read the notice signed by KCAA director-general Gilbert Kibe.

Those who already own drones are required to get a licence in the next six months.

However, concerns have been raised over the hefty fees charged for the licences whereas some drones cost as little as $150.

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Commercial drone owners are required to pay $1,000 (Ksh100,000) for the permit and $400 for the pilot. $400 will be charged for renewing the licence annually.

For a recreational drone, the permit costs $200 and a similar amount for renewal.

Drones are used in filming, crop monitoring, search and rescue or delivery of emergency supplies, research and development.

KCAA, however, warned that they should not be flown near aerodromes or around strategic installations like radar sites, high-tension cables and communication masts, highways, stadiums, prisons, police stations, military barracks, law courts and crime scenes.

Illegal use of drones attracts a fine of Ksh2 million ($20,000).

The regulations were gazetted in October last year.

Commercial tests

KCAA said Wednesday, US-based technology firms, Facebook and Uber, have applied for licences to test drones in the country.

Kenya Red Cross will also get the greenlight for drone use in emergency rescue, the regulator said.

Kenya joins Rwanda and South Africa in legalising the use of commercial drones.

In Rwanda, California-based robotics firm Zipline is using drones to deliver medical supplies to hospitals in remote areas. The firm hopes to replicate its success in Tanzania by launching what it said would be the world's largest drone delivery.

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