Defence ministry to regulate use of drones on safety fears


A drone provides surveillance during the burial of Fidel Odinga in Bondo. PHOTO | FILE

Owners of drones will now be required to seek clearance from the Ministry of Defence before testing or operating the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) said those seeking to buy the UAVs will also require the nod of the Defence ministry as the aviation watchdog raised the alarm over the increased use of drones.

“With immediate effect, all government, private institutions/entities or individuals intending to test, operate or procure UAVs should first seek approval from the Ministry of Defence,” reads a statement from KCAA.

The authority has the mandate to license airlines and planes operating in Kenya’s airspace, but lack of regulations guiding the use of drones has tied its hands on their use.

Clearance from the Defence ministry is linked to security concerns and comes in a period when Kenya has been hit by a string of deadly attacks in Mombasa, Lamu and northern Kenya, which were blamed on Islamist terrorist group Al Shabaab.

“We are currently doing regulations that will guide the use of drones in the country and we are involving all the stakeholders in this,” said Mr Mutia Mwandikwa, communications manager at KCAA.

Mr Mwandikwa said the move is aimed at safeguarding the airspace and forestall dangers that the drones might cause to the citizens if they are allowed to operate without clearance from the authorities.

This comes at a time when a number of institutions are embracing the use of drones in service delivery. Kenya Wildlife Services had indicated that it would start using the technology in manning parks to detect poaching cases.

Ol Pejeta Wildlife Sanctuary last year sought regulatory approval to deploy surveillance of drones to help fight elephant and rhino poachers on the 90,000-acre private conservation facility.

Security agencies also want to use the drones in the fight against terrorism and cattle rustling that have become a menace.

Last year, Kenya struck a deal with the College of Computing, Mathematical and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland whose officials were supposed to offer technical expertise in the technology.

An online firm, Kilimall has been mulling the use of these unmanned vehicles to deliver goods at the door steps of its shoppers.

UAVs flight is controlled either autonomously by on-board computers or piloted using a remote control by a person on the ground.