Major Kenya airline awaiting green light to launch commercial drones

Sanjeev Gadhia, Astral Aviation’s CEO, is the first of Kenya’s major airlines to come out openly to advocate the use of commercial UAVs, aka drones. He spoke up earlier in the week after the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority held the first of at least two stakeholder meetings discussing the upcoming new air service regulations for the use of UAVs in the Kenyan skies.

Gadhia said that the firm eyes an initial investment of about half a million US dollars into the new technology, which could then be used to deliver small cargos to remote areas of Kenya, and perhaps, air regulations and licenses in the region permitting, even beyond the country’s borders. Gadhia, in his comments, expressed his hope that by early 2017 the legal and regulatory framework would be in place to begin setting up a commercial UAV operation, which could be the first in Africa but for certain the first in the Eastern African region.

Astral, IATA code 8V, was founded in 2000 and operates a small fleet of cargo aircraft including DC9-34F, Boeing B727-200F, and Fokker F27-500F which fly into the wider Eastern African region. The airline also operates a leased B747-400F for flights to and from key European cargo hubs.

Mr. Gadhia will be on a panel moderated by this correspondent at the AFRAA Aviation Stakeholders Convention in Kigali on May 8, discussing the way forward to promote growth and connectivity in Africa and no doubt his plans for the use of UAVs will find its way into the discussions.