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Kenya approves commercial use of drones

By Tatianah Kiptoo,

NAIROBI – The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) has legalized the use of remote-piloted aircraft for commercial and private use in Kenya.

Aviation agency announced on March 21 that the remote-piloted aircraft will be operated within guidelines and regulations to be approved by Parliament.

The move, is seen as a relief those who own the devices and those whose equipment were confiscated. Drones can be used for sports, private surveillance and commercial purposes, according to the authority.

Director General Gilbert Kibe said users will be charged registration and licence fees, which will vary between $600 (Sh60,000) and $2,300 (Sh232,000) depending on the purpose of use.

Applicants are required to demonstrate general knowledge, flight performance and navigation skills to be allowed to acquire a drone.

The guidelines, has also set out penalties for violators however, the regulations do not apply to state aircraft, unmanned free balloons (hot air balloons), airships and toys. The regulations, however, do not apply to State aircraft, hot air balloons, airships and toys.

Drones can be used for sports, private surveillance and commercial purposes, the authority said.

“An applicant must demonstrate general knowledge, flight performance and navigation skills to be allowed to acquire a drone,” Mr Kibe said.

Following the move, the agency has given a six-month period for registration with the authority before use.
Those planning to purchase the drones for private use will part with $1,100 while a commercial user will pay $2,300. These charges are inclusive of registration and licensing fees.

“For private use, the fee may be lower by $200 if the applicant already has a foreign licence, in which case the licence validation fee will be applicable,” Mr Kibe said.

For sports and recreational purposes, an applicant will be required to pay $600. These recreational activities will be confined to registered clubs.

The approval comes as regulators elsewhere in Africa have tightened restrictions on the use of drones. In Ghana, flying an unregistered drone is punishable by up to 30 years in jail while in Nigeria, operators require permits from the aviation authority as well as the office of the National Security Adviser . The process of getting a permit in Nigeria costs up to $4,000.

Elsewhere on the continent, drones are being deployed for HIV tests in rural areas of Malawi and commercial deliveries in Rwanda.

In Kenya, as drones grew in popularity among hobbyists and tech entrepreneurs excited about their potential applications for aid relief, agricultural surveys, and e-commerce, regulators put in place vague restrictions that effectively served as a ban.

A temporal permit will cost $1,500 for both private and commercial use.

The rules, which were first published in October 2017 and will apply to importation, assembling, manufacturing, maintenance and operating the devices.

While the devices have been in use by independent photographers, filmmakers and media houses, they have remained largely unregulated.

Currently, Kenya only permits the use of drones for recreational and private use.

Any person who contravenes the regulations will be liable, upon conviction, to a fine not exceeding Sh5 million or six months jail term or both.

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