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Inaugural drone pilots conferred with license to practice

Over 40 drone pilots’ students today graduated from Drone Space, Kenya’s most unmanned aircraft system training organization.

The pilots received their Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) approved Remote Pilots Licence (RPL) Certificates in the first graduation witnessed in East and Central Africa, will be able to operate drones in the Kenyan national airspace.

Across-section of female drone pilots during the Drone Space graduation ceremony. Photo by Mical Imbukwa

Speaking at the graduation ceremony at a Nairobi hotel, the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology, Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), Maureen Mbaka, said that the unmanned aircraft industry is leading the way into a new age of aviation.

“As the drone industry continues to grow and develop at a rapid rate, it is crucial that pilots and operators do the same in order to improve their own standing with it,” said Mbaka.

She expressed confidence that the drone technology will continue to play a crucial role in optimizing various sectors of Kenya’s economy, among them, agriculture, housing, security, tourism, calling on Kenyans interested in using drones to first master how to fly and operate them correctly.

Ms Mbaka revealed that presently, Kenya is among the few African countries with comprehensive legislation on unmanned aircraft systems that guide the licensing, approval, and safe, responsible flying of drones.

“We remain a trendsetter in the continent and today’s event goes a long way in integrating commercial drone operations into the economy,” she said.

The Chief Administrative Officer noted that, the use of technology is no longer an alternative, but an acceptable way of doing business, stressing that, there might have been delay in reaching this realization, but significant progress has been made since Covid-19 pandemic hit the country in March 2020.

Drone Space aims to build a team of Kenya Civil Aviation Authority certified drone pilots who will practice flying Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to meet the local demands for various sectors of the economy.

According to Walid Badawi, the United Nations Development Programme, Resident Representative in Kenya, the age of unmanned aircraft has arrived and the inaugural graduation is a big leap in the national’s effort to harness the use of new technology.

“At Drone Space, we are committed to help shape this nascent industry. To this effect, we have equipped our graduates with proper skills and motivation enough to make them ideal drone pilots,” he said, adding that drones provide opportunities not just for service delivery but also employment and it is important that the country does not miss this wave of frontier technology.

Safety remains a fundamental concern and it is, therefore, to this end that, KCAA requires commercial drone owners to be certified and registered before operating them.

In the spirit of gender parity, Drone Space is on a journey to introduce Drone and Data analysis program for Women in Technology. This program that will target graduate beneficiaries from all the East African member states, Ethiopia and Malawi, will see the Academy sponsor 12 women in Technology for the Drone and Data analysis program.

According to Tony Mwangi, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Drone Kenya, the curriculum has already been developed, and the organization is currently looking for partners to establish the programme which is slated to start before the end of 2021.

“Upon graduation, the beneficiaries will receive a Remote Pilot License and Certificate of Drone Technology effectively, enabling them to construct and assemble drones, aircraft fundamentals, and operations, regulations and data analytics for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles,” noted the CEO.

He said the rare skills across the continent will open myriads of opportunities for the women involved in the program.

By Mical Imbukwa

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