Astral gets first permit for drone operations


An Astral Aviation cargo plane. PHOTO | FILE

Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) has issued the first licence for commercial drone operations to Astral Aviation following the adoption of the regulations that guide Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

Astral, which at the moment operates cargo flights from its base in Nairobi, has also received a permit from the aviation agency for training of drone pilots.

The firm is running its drone business under its subsidiary — Astral Aerial Solution — that will mainly deal with the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Astral chief executive officer Sanjeev Gadhia said the firm intends to partner with financial institutions for student financing in the course, noting that the training fee, which stands at Sh150,000 for two weeks could be prohibitive.


“We are opening talks with banks such as KCB and Equity and even Safaricom Foundation to see if they can help students who would like to train as drone pilots to meet the cost, either through subsidising their fees or financing through loans,” said Mr Gadhia.

So far, the school which is based in Westlands has trained about six students with Astral remaining optimistic that more will join in the coming days.

Astral Aviation had initially planned to open a “drone airport” at Kapese Airstrip in Lokichar as it targeted to fence in proceeds from oil exploration in the region but has so far put the plans on hold following the Covid-19 interruptions.

Drone firms in the country are targeting to use these UAVs for photography, traffic management and mapping, especially on agricultural farms.

KCAA operationalised the new rules after they were approved by the Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Transport James Macharia under legal Notice No.4 of 2021 on 22 January 2021.

The approval of the regulations paved the way for full implementation of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems regulatory framework in Kenya.

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