Kenya Legalizes The Use of Drones Albeit Under Tough Regulations

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It might come as a sigh of relief to any drone enthusiast when they read that the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) has gazetted the proposed Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems 2017 thus rendering the use of drones in Kenya legal. However, what might not be clear is that these regulations may prove to be a bottleneck to anyone, especially individuals, who would want to operate drones in Kenya.

The regulations have divided the use of drones into three categories; recreation, private and commercial. All three categories have specific regulations that apply to them. The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority has made it mandatory for anyone who owns a drone in Kenya to register it with them within six months and for new owners, the drones will have to be registered before a license to operate it is issued.

To apply for a drone license, the person must be over 18 years old, be a Kenyan citizen or a company registered in Kenya or the government. Aside from these requirements, for one to be certified as a drone pilot one shall be required to:

  • Hold a current Class 2 medical certificate
  • Demonstrate English proficiency
  • Hold a radio telephony licence
  • Have completed a course of training approved by the KCAA
  • Have passed a knowledge and skill test
  • Have proof of identity
  • Have police clearance certificate
  • Subscribe to a liability insurance cover

In addition to this, there are certain rules that cut across all categories of the drones, which include:

  • Drones shall not be flown above 400 feet Above Ground Level (AGL) and within 50 meters of any person, vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the pilot.
  • Drones shall not be operated at night unless specifically cleared by the Authority on a case by case basis.
  • Drones without cameras, weighing less than 2 kilograms gross weight, not powered by any fuel system, not capable of carrying any payload and is operated at a maximum height of 50 feet above ground level, a maximum lateral distance of 50 metres from the operator and a maximum speed of 10 knots are referred to as “toys”.
  • Toys and Drones shall not be operated within an aerodrome and not less than 500 metres from the aerodrome boundaries, in or around strategic installations, radar sites, high tension cables and communication masts, prisons, police stations, courts of law and scenes of crime.
  • Any person who does not adhere to the provisions of the regulations commits an offence and shall be liable, upon conviction, to a fine not exceeding two million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to both.

By August 2016, at least 1,000 applications had been made in regards to the use of drones locally. The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority today announced that Google and Uber have already applied for drone operation licenses and Kenya Red Cross also applied to be licensed to use drones during emergency rescue operations.

For those interested in going through the regulations, you can download the PDF file here.

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