Kenya is one of the first African countries to make flying a drone legal. So long as operators fly within the rules set by the Kenyan Civil Aviation Authorities (KCAA) the Kenyan government says they’ll have no problem. The government will start issuing licenses for drones flown by organizations and private citizens. This exercise will take about 6 months and the KCAA has formulated the law which is expected to be ratified by parliament.
For many years, the use of drones for nonmilitary activities in Kenya has been banned. People who were caught disobeying the law were charged a hefty fine and sometimes even imprisonment. Some say that Uber and Facebook have shown an interest in starting operations in the country. Uber was reported to have expressed its interest in testing flying taxis in Kenya. A source who is familiar with the discussions said that Uber only notified the regulators of the technology and possibility of on-demand transportation.
In the next few years, Uber plans to launch flying taxis in several cities like Dubai, Los Angeles and Dallas-Fort Worth. With the approval of this regulation, Kenya has joined the ranks of South Africa in creating a drone law that allows the use of drones for economic and social reasons. For many years, Kenya has been seen as a perfect location for drone testing with many organizations already using the technology in sectors like agriculture, real estate, etc. But because of the fear of terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab, many feared that drones could be used to carry out terror activities. For this single reason, the regulators passed laws that were ineffective and could be categorized as a ban.
The new policy in Kenya requires operators to be medically fit, have clearance by the police, and complete a training course. They also need to have liability insurance in order to be compliant with the regulations. If an operator is caught flying drones without following the laws and regulations, they will be slapped with a fine of 2 million shillings which is about $20,000. The offender could also face a 6 month jail term.
Some say that these policies are over the top and could deter the wide adoption of drones in Kenya. Aerial photographer Sam Muchaii called the regulation tedious and ridiculous. For now, we just have to wait and see how many operators apply for the license. As the Kenyan Government issues drone licenses, it is hopeful that individuals and organizations will do what is necessary to qualify and help bring Kenya into the new drone era.