Drones can now be operated freely in Kenya subject to registration by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, the agency has said.
KCAA director general Gilbert Kibe said operators of the remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems must also abide by the regulations guiding their use.
“Any person who wishes to import, own or operate an RPAS in Kenya shall apply to Kenya Civil Aviation Authority in the prescribed form and pay the requisite fee for the due process.”
“A person commits an offence if they own, operate, manufacture, assemble or test an RPAS without authorisation from KCAA,” Kibe said in a statement on Wednesday.
According to the Kenya Civil Aviation (Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems Regulations, 2017), Kenyans are allowed to acquire drones for sports, private activities, and commercial purposes.
An applicant must, however, demonstrate general knowledge, flight performance and navigation skills to be allowed to acquire one.
The assembly or manufacture of drones without clearance by KCAA attracts a penalty of Sh2 million or six-month imprisonment.
A similar punishment will be meted out to anyone who operates drones with military specifications.
Failure to disclose drone specifications, airworthiness, insurance policy, operating speeds, maximum climb rates and coverage area attracts Sh1 million fine or six months imprisonment.
Kibe said those who had already imported drones before the commencement of the regulations gazetted on October 6 have six months to apply for registration.
According to RPAS regulations, KCAA may grant permission, upon application, a temporary permit to a person intending to operate a drone not registered in Kenya for a period of thirty days renewable once.
Kibe said the regulations do not, however, apply to state aircraft, unmanned free ballons (hot air ballons), airships and toys.
“Provided that no toy shall be operated within an aerodrome and not less than 500 meters from the aerodrome boundaries, in and around strategic installations, radar sites, high tension cables and communication masts, prisons, police stations, courts of law and scenes of crime,” Kibe said.
A drone with less than 2 kilograms gross weight, not powered by fuel, not fitted with a camera, not carrying a payload, is operated at a maximum height of 50 feet above ground and not more than 50 meters radius from the operator, qualifies as a toy.
Drones have become popular in Kenya especially in the media where they are used for shooting video in inaccessible areas.