Kenya: Wildlife Drone Launch Delayed


By Wanjohi Gakio, The Star

Date Published
The government has banned the launch of a private wildlife surveillance drone citing security concerns.

The launch was expected to take place next week.

“One of the things that has now arisen is that the Kenya government has put a ban in place on private sector drones for the time being. We will be working closely with the Kenya Wildlife Service to identify the way forward for our conservation drone but in the meantime we ask you to continue your incredible patience as we work to bring this project to fruition,” said Ol Pejeta Conservancy chief commercial officer Robert Breare and public relations manager Elodie Sampere in a joint statement to the press.

Ol Pejeta had planned to unveil its drone in June after successfully testing a model drone by US manufacturer Airware, which would have seen Kenya launch its first virtual tourism village to be beamed real time to classes, colleges and other forums via the internet.

Early in the year, Ol pejeta received approval from relevant government agencies to launch the drone and a two-week test drive conducted successfully for the two kilogramme Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.

The idea to launch a UAV was mooted a year ago and about Sh3 million raised via a crowd funding platform where wildlife lovers across the world contributed the money.

This followed an increase in elephant and rhino poaching following a surge in the demand for ivory in Asia.

“To avoid the need for Ol Pejeta to employ full time pilots and engineers, Airware has developed a simple digital mapping interface, meaning that even a technophobe with no pilot training should be able to control the drone from the ground station,” said Sampere.

“While the sensors are tweaked, the screws tightened and the wires adjusted, wildlife conservationists everywhere can prepare themselves for a revolution.”

Drones are known for all the wrong reasons as they are used for mainly military purposes – bombing enemy zones and suspected terrorist sites – but UAVs have been deployed for other uses such as security surveillance around palatial homes, wildlife sanctuaries and in large industrial firms.

“From surveying oil pipelines, to searching for missing persons, to an online retail giant announcing an unconventional new delivery system – the drone is being demilitarised and is finding employment in more overt sectors. There are countless everyday challenges that could be more easily solved with an unmanned aerial vehicle,” reads the statement.

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