Yamaha drones coming to Kenya despite prohibitive laws, fees

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In March last year, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) published regulations for the commercial use of drones.

KCAA Director General Gilbert Kibe said that any operator of the unmanned aerial vehicles were expected to register them before use.

Drone importation and licensing in Kenya

In a move seen as a limitation to the country’s nascent film industry, Kibe said that even those who owned drones before the laws were passed were supposed to register them within six months.

“A person commits an offense if they own, operate, import, manufacture, assemble or test an RPAS without authorisation from KCAA,” he said.

The contention came due to the fees imposed by KCAA.

While drones are permitted for recreational use in Kenya, anyone wishing to operate one has to part with anything between Kshs 60,000 (USD 600) and Kshs 232,000 (USD 2,300) depending on the purpose of use.

Kibe said, “Any Person who wishes to import, own or operate an RPAS in Kenya shall apply to the Authority in the prescribed form and pay the requisite fee for due processing.”

Generally, it is illegal to own, operate, import, assemble, manufacture or test a drone without KCAA’s authorization.

Yamaha delivery, farming drones in Kenya

Astral Aerial Solution has sealed a deal with Japanese drone manufacturer Yamaha Motor Company to provide last mile air cargo delivery and crop spraying solutions in Kenya.

In a deal sealed at the ongoing 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7), Astral Aerial Solutions will be providing market entry support for the new Yamaha FAZER R G2 drones. These drones are a high-end model developed for the industrial sector.

Astral Aerial Solutions, a fully owned subsidiary of Astral Aviation provides drone services in Kenya for a variety of sectors including Humanitarian cargo air transport, medical deliveries, Aerial mapping and imagery, Aerial Surveillance and Security, Agriculture, Oil and gas services, emergency response among others.

Astral Aviation CEO & Founder, Sanjeev Gadhia says that they will be promoting the use of the drones in the Kenya market for agricultural production services such as crop spraying, remote deliveries and overhead structural and civil engineering inspection functions.

The Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD)

First held in 1993, the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) is hosted by the Japanese government in conjunction with the United Nations, the United Nations Development Programme, the African Union Commission and the World Bank.

Gadhia said Astral Aviation has diversified its service offering to include drone services which are gaining market acceptance.

“Our mission is to create a drone-revolution in Africa by adapting technology and innovation to solve Africa’s problem so that it can leapfrog to the future. Our association with Yamaha will provide us with the necessary impetus to scale our delivery capacity in the agricultural and civil engineering fields as the FAZER range of drones enjoy unrivalled and proven reputation in agricultural performance; a testament to Yamaha’s commitment to remotely piloted helicopters and precision agriculture solutions,” Gadhia said.

The partnership will further enhance Kenya-Japan Bilateral relations in line with one of TICAD7’s agenda to foster economic transformation and improvements in business environment and institution through private investment and innovation.

FAZER R G2 drone model

In Kenya, Astral Aerial Solutions, will be introducing the FAZER R G2 drone model, which is an industrial drone for automated flight to uninhabited areas out of visual range, and delivers excellent performance through its maximum payload of 35kg, maximum altitude of 2,800m, and cruising range of 90km.

Last year, Yamaha Motor Corp., USA, received an exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to begin using its FAZER remotely piloted helicopter for select commercial agricultural spraying operations.

The FAZER is Yamaha’s latest helicopter to receive FAA approval in the U.S., following the RMAX model, which is currently being operated in agricultural applications in California’s Napa Valley.

Yamaha provides direct services for fungicide aerial application on wine grapes in Napa Valley and is now planning to introduce the FAZER into operation starting in June.

Yamaha has been operating remotely piloted helicopters for commercial purposes since 1991 and has amassed over 2 million total flight hours.

In Japan alone, there are over 2,500 Yamaha remotely piloted helicopters utilised in agricultural applications, carrying out pest control in 35 per cent of Japan’s rice fields.

Remotely piloted helicopters are used in applications other than agriculture such as academic research, disaster prevention, observation and survey work.

Read: Will digital agriculture bring economic development to Africa?, Chinese presence in Africa catches Japan’s eye

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