Unregulated drones threaten Kenyan airspace

Unregulated drones threaten Kenyan airspace

- in Investigations, News
Dronesix Operations Manager Craig Cleave demonstrate how a drone works to members of the delegated legislation when visited KCAA offices yesterday.

Kenyan airspace could be facing threats of unknown magnitude owing to
unregulated usage of drones after the Kenya Civil aviation Authority
(Kcaa) Director General captain Gilbert Kibe said they have no
capacity to control their operations due to lack of legislation.

The shocking revelations were made yesterday before the Parliamentary
committee on delegated legislation at Kcaa headquarters at the Jomo
Kenyatta International Airport (Jkia).

Kibe further told the committee chaired by acting chairman George
Gitonga that the country is exposed to danger which must be mitigated
in draft regulations set to be reviewed in June this year.

“Drones are intrinsically safe but can be misused. If we do not have
legislation in place, it will be very difficult to stop…yes we are
exposed to danger but we need to mitigate that danger.” Kibe said.

Gitonga led other committee members for an inspection tour at Jkia to
see drones shipped into the country but Kenya Airport Authority failed
to clear them.

“As the regulator and provider we issue licenses to airlines, cabin
crew, register airlines and offer navigation services. Legal Notice of
2009 banned usage of drones and therefore any drone imported after the
legal notice is illegal unless and until we have approved
legislation.” Kibe added.

Following the ban in 2009 , new drone owners are required to get
approval from Department of Defence before Kcaa gives nod for the
importation.

KCAA director general Gilbert Kibe (centre) with members of the delegated legislation committee George Gitonga (right) and Wilberforce Oundo when they visited KCAA offices yesterday.

He said the regulations from Kcaa is only advisory and not law.

Kcaa said for them to adequately monitor, undertake surveillance and
control usage of the unmanned or Remotely Piloted Aircraft System
(RAPS), they require a surveillance machine that could cost up to
Sh5billion.

Some of the proposals floated, upon legislation of drone usage is to
implant electronic chips and barcode that detail the owner and usage
of the unmanned vehicle.

Also, Kcaa is seeking to have six months voluntary registration by
drone owners and apply. This would not be subject to criminal
prosecution or attract taxes.

Kenya Revenue Authority is holding 150 drones imported at Jkia. Owners
have been asked to take them back to country of origin since they are
currently banned in the country.

Last month, the authority published regulations for the commercial use
of unmanned aerial aircrafts through an advert placed in the local
dailies an operator of a remotely piloted aircraft system is expected
to register it before use.

This is in sharp contradiction to what Kibe told the committee
yesterday that any drone imported after 2009 legal notice banning
drones in the country is illegal.

However, Kcaa said they are seeking for voluntary registration of
unknown number of drones currently in the possession of either
individuals or entities.

He explained that anyone who already owns a drone imported into the
country at the commencement of the regulations should apply to the
authority within six months.

Although illegal, Kcaa continues to permit and levy fees for the use
of drones for private, recreational and commercial use.

The committee heard that out of the 192 ICIAO member states, only ten
countries have regulations controlling drones usage.

Others like Rwanda and Tanzania have national laws restricting use of
drones for particular purposes specifically medical drugs supplies
unlike in South Africa where they are used for all purposes a move
Kenya plans to adopt.

The committee warned the authority to first undertake extensive public
participation and benchmarking in other countries on the security
threats, privacy invasion risks and other existential threats posed by
the unmanned aircraft’s against the need gaps to be fulfilled.

“This is a very mind boggling issue. We first need to understand why
only ten countries in ICIAO from the 192 have regulations on drone
usage. Is it because of risks posed? Some countries are manufacturers
and exporters of drones and they have banned them in their countries.”
Kandara MP Alice Wahome said.

Former Attorney-General Githu Muigai gave a nod and all security
agencies under the National Security Advisory Committee after
approving the controversial in January this year.

Nsac formed an inter-ministerial committee in 2015 to come up with
draft policy and regulations which was finalized in 2016.

“These regulations and policy are draft regulations and not law. They
National Assembly has not approved them. You also need to undertake
more public participation on this weighty issue.” The Acting committee
chair ruled.

Under the regulations termed the committee as inadequate, civilians
are limited to flying drones at a height of not more than 400 feet
above ground level to avoid collision with aircraft.

“This is a very serious matter and this institution is taking it
lightly usage of drones. If an airline from another country is hit by
an illegal drone in Kenyan airspace what will happen?” Dan Maanzo, a
committee member posed.

The members said although there is need to embrace technology, all
measures must be taken not to expose the country to danger since
drones can be used to ferry contrabands and carry out illegal
surveillance.

Another rule further states that the drones must be within 50 meters
of any person, vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the
control of the person in charge of the remotely piloted aircraft
system.

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