Monday, March 20, 2017

Kenya customs alarmed by the rise in import of drones

A drone flies in space. More than 100 drones

A drone flies in space. More than 100 drones being detained at the airport by Kenya Revenue Authority customs officials. PHOTO | FILE 

Nairobi. Senior aviation and customs officials at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport have raised the alarm over attempts to import drones into the country.

With more than 100 drones being detained at the airport by Kenya Revenue Authority customs officials, there is growing unease over an increased attempt to sneak the items into the country which is headed for a General Election in less than five months.

Also being held by the officials after recent seizures are four firearms with 71 rounds of ammunition, bullet proof jackets, two-way communication handsets and 20 pairs of handcuffs.

Customs officials said they have been intercepting the items packed as cargo checked into the flights with most passengers simply citing ignorance to the fact that the items are prohibited in Kenya.

Nairobi Region Deputy Commissioner for Customs George Muia told the Nation that through powerful scanners and the vigilant customs officers, the items have been intercepted over time with some as recently as last week.

He said the drones have caused concern given that they have powerful capabilities and tend to form the highest number of prohibited items being seized at the country’s aviation hub.

“We have noticed a trend where people are bringing in drones with high resolution cameras and night vision. We are holding 100 of them because they are items not allowed in Kenya,” he said.

Mr Muia added: “Apart from posing aviation risks, drones are used for spying and one can fly the one with night vision right into your window and record what is happening in the privacy of a room,” Mr Muia said.

Some of the drones intercepted since May 2016 are said to have high technical capabilities, including ability to fly for 25 minutes.

Customs officials alerted the Ministry of Defence after the number of drones being seized shot up. Due to lack of a legal framework, Kenya does not allow any non-military use of drones but there are currently on-going efforts to come up with regulations.

Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) Director-General Gilbert Kibe, who also expressed concerns over the influx of the gadgets, said the National Security Advisory Committee chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta has already approved regulations to pave way for their use beyond military operations.