As drones became more popular among tech entrepreneurs in Kenya who were excited about their potential applications for aid relief, agriculture, e-commerce, and real-estate, regulators put in place vague restrictions that effectively served as a ban. However, all that is beginning to change now as the government is opening the skies to commercialize drone use.
For the past two years, the Kenyan government limited the use of drones to the military. Individuals without permits to fly drones either met with hefty fines or imprisonment.
Six months from now, individuals and companies operating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will receive licenses for commercial and private activities. Owning and flying a drone will no longer be illegal in Kenya. This only remains true if this new law gazetted by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) makes it through parliament.
Drone laws are still meticulous
However, this only holds true as long as users operate within the regulations set by civil aviation authorities.
These new regulations are quite scrupulous, requiring drone pilots to have police clearance, subscribe to a liability insurance coverage, be medically fit, and complete training courses. According to the regulations, those who do not adhere to these and many more provisions will pay a fine of two million shillings ($19,820) or face a six-months jail term.
Fears about terrorist groups using drones to carry out terrorist attacks was also one of the reasons for its ban.
The Ministry of Defense and the KCAA had to give their approval to drone operators, a complex process that almost never resulted in a license.
If and when this law is ratified, Kenya joins Rwanda and South Africa who already have frameworks that allow the exploration of drones for socio-economic impact.
Cracking down on commercial drones
This approval comes as regulators elsewhere in Africa are tightening restrictions on unmanned aerial vehicles.
In Ghana for instance, flying an unregistered drone could send violators to jail for 30 years. In Nigeria, operators require permits from the aviation authority and the National Security Adviser which costs as much as $4,000.
Across Africa, Rwanda is the pioneer in commercializing the use of drones besides the military, especially with the emergence of Zipline, the world’s first commercial drone delivery service transporting blood across the country.
Drone use in Africa
Drone operators will no longer have to fly under the government’s radar or worry about illegal issues. These laws though less stringent in Kenya, are still tedious which might deter many from actively adopting drones.