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What is all the buzz about new drone laws?

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By Macharia Kamau | April 19th 2021
Gilbert M Kibe - Director General - Kenya Civil Aviation Authority. [Courtesy]

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) recently started implementing the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Regulations 2020 for owning and operating Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) popularly known as drones. 

Director-General Gilbert Kibe spoke to Financial Standard on what the new regulations entail.

Does KCAA plan on having a register of people who own drones in the country as part of measures to ensure adherence to the new regulations?

Compliance with the Civil Aviation (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) Regulations, 2020 is a mandatory requirement for the safe and secure operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) also known as drones in Kenya. KCAA has undertaken a number of online as well as in-person sensitisation programmes on the application and implication of the regulations.

These sensitisation activities will continue in a bid to educate Kenyans on the requirements for owning and operating drones. We have also licensed a number of training organisations engaged in training drone operators, which will play a critical role in providing the necessary training to drone enthusiasts and potential operators.  

What happens to those who had already imported their drones and are operational?

The regulations envisaged such a scenario and in this regard, transitional provisions have been made. Those who already had their equipment in the country at the time of promulgation of the regulations have been accorded time to register without the need to have an import permit.

However, all drones imported into Kenya after the promulgation of the regulations require an import permit and subsequent registration before operation. The online drone management system allows such owners to apply for registration. 

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A drone. [Courtesy]

How many licences has the authority issued so far, and what are the major or common uses the licensees cite when making applications?

The regulations envisage various licences, certificates and authorisations in the facilitation of drone operations in the country.

So far, we have certified three Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training Organisations (UTO), 10 special permits to relevant government projects and one Remote Aircraft Operating Certificate (ROC) for commercial operations.

We have also issued several one-off temporary Authorisations on a case-by-case basis to various applicants.  

What informed KCAA’s decisions on the licensing fees as well as the penalties for flouting the regulations? 

KCAA like many State Corporations operates on a cost-recovery basis for the regulatory services rendered, and in the process of developing the charging framework, stakeholder participation is paramount. It is, therefore, important to note that not all charges as tabulated apply to every drone operator. 

The fee framework envisages the entire UAS operations scope; a drone operator charges will be subject to their scope of operations. KCAA will continue sensitising the public on the application of these charges for proper interpretation.

Drones could be a major source of safety and security concerns as was the case recently when one was flown into the home of Deputy President William Ruto. Besides the regulations, what other measures has KCAA put in place to ensure that such threats to security are minimised?

It is indeed true that if inappropriately utilised, drones can be a menace and a major safety and security threat. We have a regulatory regime for drone operations is in place to facilitate safe and secure operations for all. In exceptional cases of non-compliance, we have prescribed elaborate sanctions and penalties.

KCAA is in the process of acquiring an unmanned traffic management system to monitor drone operations within the country.  We are also emphasising UAS training for personnel to ensure safety of other airspace users and the public.

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