Danish IT firm Danoffice has become the latest company eyeing Kenya for drone sales as the aviation authority finalises rules governing operation of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Danoffice is targeting non-governmental organisations (NGOs) keen to deploy drones in their operations saying it will not be offering them to commercial entities.
Jacob Petersen, Danoffice global sales manager said that they were looking to start working with wildlife conservation groups and serve humanitarian NGOs.
“We are looking at wildlife monitoring – surveillance in the conservancies making sure that rangers have what they need to gather information,” Mr Petersen said.
“We were in Mara before the ban (on drone operations) trying to figure out if we can use drones for counter-poaching. Lighter versions with thermal cameras to identify possible poachers.”
Danoffice now joins other companies like Astral Aviation, a Kenyan-based logistic firm which in April said it will introduce drones for commercial purposes once regulations are passed. Zipline, a California–based robotics company which launched humanitarian drone delivery services in Rwanda is also headed to Kenya.
Danoffice will also be exploring offering drones that can make humanitarian deliveries similar to those of Zipline.
The deliveries include medical equipment like essential medicines and blood samples to laboratories from hard-to- reach areas or when they are needed immediately.
Danoffice is a vendor selling the UAVs to prospective clients and differs from Zipline which will own the drones and offer the services itself in a leasing model.
“The company is partnering with governments to make on-demand deliveries of life saving medicine to previously unreachable parts of the world,” Zipline said in a statement last month when it launched the services in Rwanda.
“Zipline uses a fleet of autonomous electric airplanes for its deliveries. Each airplane weighs 10kg, can carry 1.5kg of medicine, and can fly more than 120 kilometres round trip on a single battery charge, even in wind and rain.”
The entry of the various vendors and operators to Kenya comes at a time the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority is expected to gazette the rules on the drones which are currently in draft form and undergoing public discussion.
The new rules are meant to seamlessly integrate the UAVs to the current aviation environment to avoid disrupting aircraft operations as well as address issues of safety for people on the ground and include other features such as insurance.
There are many classifications of drones based on use, size among others categories. The UAVs can also be classified according to type- fixed wing (which resemble conventional airplanes and multi-rotor drones.
Danoffice supplies both types working with manufacturers of the UAVs. Among its offers are the fixed wing Cumulus One which can make long flights using pre-set coordinates and the short flight quad-copter Phantom 3.
Byron Osiro Danoffice area sales manager said that a working group between the charitable groups, the United Nations, the government and other interested parties has been formed to work on modalities of how they can use drones to make deliveries or general use in the humanitarian areas without overlap.
Kenya has lagged behind in the use of drones due to a lack of regulations with other countries moving ahead to develop delivery systems for light parcels including in cities.
Mr Petersen said that Kenya could see the emergence of companies offering drone services to firms that only need them sporadically- a drone taxi service.
“A lot of that is happening in Denmark right now. Drone operators are renting out their services to building inspections so that’s definitely a potential area.”
Mr Osiro added that drones have immense capabilities like crowd control- where the UAVs can pinpoint trouble spots and isolate those causing havoc during protests, buildings inspection and using cameras with heat maps when structures collapse to see where people are trapped.
Other uses include cinematography, disaster relief and transporting critically needed blood from one medical centre to another.