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Technology

Kenya flies behind African peers in drones adoption

drones
In Ghana, farmers use drones for mapping, disease surveillance and aerial spraying of crops. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

As Kenya dithers over adoption of drones, a number of African countries have moved ahead with approval of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which have been touted as the next big technology that will revolutionise sectors such as farming and logistics.

Ghana, Rwanda and South Africa are among the countries that are using the digital technology to solve problems that have been afflicting agriculture.

In Ghana for instance, farmers are using it for mapping, disease surveillance and aerial spraying of crops in the farms.

Experts say use of drone technology can significantly cut costs and reduce time it takes to perform tasks.

“The drones can effectively pinpoint a particular area that has been affected by disease, drawing the attention to that particular point instead of having, for instance, to spray the whole farm when it is just a section that needs spraying,” says George Madjitey, a drone expert.

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Because the drone can identify a specific area that requires a particular action, Mr Madjitey says drones significantly cut costs of operations such as spraying or applying nutrients.

“Use of drones can cut down the use of pesticides by between 20 and 25 percent given that it only addresses the area of concern. This also helps in conserving the environment,” he said.

Once the drones have done surveillance on a given farm, they also record data that is later retrieved for analysis.

This year’s Africa Green Revolution Forum held in Accra urged farmers to move away from traditional way of doing things and embrace technology to enhance their productivity.

Although drones can revolutionise agriculture and propel economic growth, Kenya is yet to adopt them. The use of the gadgets was dealt a blow last year after Parliament rejected the regulations that would have made their use legal in the country.

Currently it is illegal for anyone to operate drones in the country as the required laws are yet to be put in place.

Hundreds of drones imported into the country have been confiscated at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport because there is no legal framework to allow their operations in the country.

Parliament annulled the Kenya Civil Aviation (Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems Regulations, 2017) after finding fault with several provisions.

The committee on Delegated Legislation pointed out that there was inadequate public participation in drafting the regulations, in violation of the Constitution.

It also noted that the proposed set of rules fell short of addressing issues that had been raised around safety, security and breach of personal privacy by drones in civilian hands under the Bill of Rights. Additionally, the lawmakers pointed out inconsistencies in application of fines.

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) has so far held fresh stakeholders meeting to deliberate underlying issues in introduction of drones in the country in a second attempt to have regulations approved by Parliament.

The meeting, which brought together all the interested parties in drones, sought to reach a consensus with KCAA on how to get the process right.

Looking at the rising trend in the adoption of drones, Kenya has to act fast to ensure it is not left behind. Mr Madjitey says globally the drone sector is growing very fast in the recent days, as they become more popular and gain traction in logistics and agriculture.

In Ghana, where the use of the UAVs is rapidly expanding due to regulatory framework that has been put in place, small scale farmers have been using them to cut costs and boost yields .

Because small holder farmers cannot individually afford to acquire a drone because they are expensive, technology firms have brought them together in groups to cost-share.

Drones, according to experts, increase farming productivity by up to 50 percent because of precision with which they work. They also cut cost as it does the work that would ordinarily been done by more people.

In Rwanda, the gadgets are used in medical services such as sending medicines or blood to remote areas that cannot be accessed by road.

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