The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), on January15 th 2015, issued a cease and desist order to anyone operating drones, also referred to as aerial vehicles. This came following what the KCAA termed as the proliferation of drones over the Kenyan airspace. According to this body, anyone seeking to operate these devices must first seek consent from the Ministry of Defence and authorisation from the Kenyan Aviation Authority.
While no clear reasoning was given behind such restrictions, it is possible that the government was concerned about safety and privacy issues that the operation of drones can attract. For instance, what would be the repercussion if a drone malfunctions during public functions or if two drones collide during an event? These and others concerns have forced the government to given an order prohibiting the use of drones. A good example is a drone project for wildlife conservation at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy which was halted by the state for security reasons. These and other issues raised are important considerations before regulations are can be made. The operation and use of drones has for a long time been associated with military operations but these devices can also serve as surveillance and photography devices. Farmers can, for instance, use drones to survey their large tracks of land while emergency operators can collect information that can provide more details for informed decision making.
A section of Kenyans have come to embrace drones for commercials and recreational purposes. A good instance is the use of drones during high-end events such as weddings. These devices are a choice among this section of the population due to their ability to capture some special and extraordinary moments coupled with a cinematic effect. Drones have been described as bearing special benefits such as manoeuvrability, easy setup, safety and no carbon emissions.
In other parts of the world such as Canada and South Africa, drones have been found to be quite useful. In Canada, a car accident victim who was injured was saved thanks to a search and rescue drone. This was after unsuccessful search by a helicopter. It has been reported that poaching has reduced by 92% in Hluluhwe-imfolozi Park in South Africa following the introduction of a drone. With the advent of cheaper technology, there is likely to be a decrease in prices coupled with greater accessibility: situations which are likely to increase the interest of acquiring drones. Some models such as AR Drone go for as low as $300 while Dji Phantom sells for around $700 at Amazon with free shipping.
Dickens Olewe, founder of skyCAM, a drone journalism firm, feels that earlier, a lot was put at risk when it came to the gathering of important information. He states that human life and pricey equipment were risked as journalists attempted to get closer to danger zones. He feels that interest groups have presented a convincing case for the use of these devices. The restriction of the use of drones has been termed by some as a step backwards as it not only denies nations an opportunity to be part of the rapidly growing technology but also opportunities to make use of technology for social welfare.
While drones are seen as important devices, there has been a general concern that they could be misused in the absence of proper regulation. Currently, no law has been passed prohibiting the use of drones, and this has raised the debate as to whether their use should be considered punishable. The debate seems to have been brought to an end unceremoniously after an Australian tourist was fined Kshs. 50,000 after pleading guilty to using his drone at the Amboseli National Park to take pictures. KCAA is reported to be collaborating with key ministries such as ICT, Communication, Defence, among others to come up with regulation. Nevertheless, it is possible that drone operators and land owners may get into disputes. Under Article 40 of the Kenyan constitution, the land owners may object the operation of drones over their property. Articles 31 and 42 on rights to privacy and environment may also heighten the debate and give rise to interesting debates. The regulation process has to also consider the several groups of operations such as by hobbyist, agencies, and recreational uses, among others.
For now, drone owners and operators have no option but to relax given that the licensing process is yet to begin officially. Anyone operating these devices should know that they are doing so illegally.
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