New drone regulations for Kenya awaiting security clearance

Kenya is expected to catch up very soon with Rwanda, which, as in many other areas, broke ground for Africa when the country provided a regulatory regime and then licensed the first commercial UAV operation in African aviation history.

A source close to the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority has confirmed that following consultations with stakeholders, a new set of regulations was prepared which, when approved by the security services, will govern the use of such unmanned aerial vehicles for both commercial as well as private operations.

For many people, UAVs are still a powerful surveillance asset and often associated with taking out enemy targets in the war against terror. In East Africa, these flying eyes in the skies are regularly and successfully used in Somalia where Al Shabab and other terror organization targets have been struck and eliminated. It was very likely over such fears that Kenyan security services shut down plans to use drones in the fight against poaching, where constant aerial surveillance could have made all the difference in preventing rhinos from being killed over the past years, had the technology been allowed to supplement other anti-poaching efforts.

Media reports have also suggested that the Kenyan armed forces have bought a military grade UAV due for delivery before the end of the year which is expected to substantially upgrade surveillance capabilities in areas along the Somali border and inside Somalia from where real time transmissions can provide crucial intelligence.

When the Kenyan security services blocked the use of drones by law-abiding citizens and organizations, they seemed to have forgotten a basic lesson that criminals, leave alone terror groups, will not give a damn about regulations and prohibitions, but use available technology anyway, so halting the use of unmanned aerial vehicles has left Kenya hamstrung on UAVs, while in other African countries, their ownership has long proliferated.

When finally cleared by Kenyan security organization, individuals will be able to use small drones for taking aerial photographs and videos of their favorite vacation spots but will be restricted to a maximum elevation of 400 feet above ground while being subject to a range of restricted areas, notably around airports. Reports from Kenya speak of over 1,000 pending applications which the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) will have to deal with once the regulations are published, finally opening the door for both tourists and commercial users to get their flying objects into the air.