Drone enthusiasts and entrepreneurs are a patient but disappointed lot. The recent release of possible sector controls and guidelines seem to be informed from a position of fear rather than value. While it is great to temper the introduction of new technologies to the mainstream with both obvious and unforeseen risks, it is quite another to put up punitive checks that quite frankly are not delivering on the desired deterrent effects as clearly evidenced by the many advertisement, wedding and personal videos shot from drones, which are now technically illegal.
The benefits of smart and innovative deployment of drone supported operations cut across many industries. In insurance they can be used for remote assessment and real-time verification of claims, hopefully reducing instances of fraud or unwarranted delays, lowering the cost of doing business and making premiums that more affordable, driving adoption of current and future policy products.
Agricultural drones have delivered great value for large scale farmers in other markets, allowing them to cut down on operational costs and increase earnings with precision farming techniques, where previously one would require the services of more expensive machinery, for example a small light aircraft to handle certain tasks.
To achieve smart city status we may need to leverage what drones have to offer. Nairobi would run better with traffic drones that augment other data sources to help residents get around faster. Safer too, if aerial surveillance was part of the mix, especially in risky neighborhoods, supporting on ground patrol efforts. The use cases out in the wild are many, with ZipLine’s work in Rwanda as probably the current posterchild of tangible impact with on-demand emergency blood deliveries to transfusion clinics across the country. Tanzania is full steam on their service launch that will have over 100 drones poised to make up to 2,000 flights daily.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority and other key government publics mean well, but they should revisit their proposal, compare with global best practice but most importantly tropicalize interventions to ensure that while we remain acutely aware of the challenges UAV’s may pose to what is largely covered under national security, that we do not stifle legitimate and sustainable enterprise whose true value lies beyond what many still see as fancy toys.