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Why flying drones in Africa’s airspace is risky

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By ALLAN OLINGO
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As the use of commercial drones gains momentum in Africa with aid agencies and agricultural institutions fast taking up the technology to streamline their work, the lack of regulations as well as security and safety remain key concerns.

From the delivery of emergency medical supplies and blood samples in Rwanda and Malawi to gas exploration in Tanzania and Mozambique, the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are proving extremely useful.

However, only South Africa and Rwanda have proper laws on the use of commercial drones within their airspace.

Civil aviation authorities are struggling to keep the unmanned aerial vehicles out of the way of aircraft and incorporate them within their air navigation and surveillance systems.

“African operators are trying to address current concerns. Countries should also insist on drone pilot training as part of regulations,” said Celine Hourcade, the head of cargo transportation at the Interna-tional Air Transport Association.

Ms Hourcade added that the association is working with the International Civil Aviation Organisation, air navigation agencies and governments in formulating a regulatory framework.

In February this year, Rwanda opened its skies to commercial drones, barely two years after South Africa approved its own drone regulations.

Rwanda’s revised regulations, are the first in the region, were approved in January. They outline the use of UAVs in complex commercial operations.

“The laws allow drones to fly above the visual line of sight and permit the use of highly automated drones,” said the Minister of State in charge of Transport in the Ministry of Infrastructure Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye.

Kenya and Tanzania are still struggling to put the necessary laws in place.

Two months ago, Kenya’s parliament refused to endorse the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems Regulations 2017 over safety and privacy concerns.

“Drones are now operating illegally in Kenya. The tragedy is that we can’t do much about it because we don’t have any laws to enforce. My primary concern is safety, particularly around airports,” said Kenya Civil Aviation Authority director-general Gilbert Kibe.

Nairobi now hopes the regulations will be in place by the end of the year after addressing concerns raised by Members of Parliament.

In March, KCAA issued a gazette notice on drone regulations that seeks to among other things, establish a registry to control the ownership and use of the unmanned vehicles.

“All drone operators will have to register with us and obtain a permit to fly. We will need to know how many drones are in the country, what purpose they are for and who their operators’ sake,” said Mr Kibe.

The gazetted regulations, if endorsed by parliament, will allow Kenyans to acquire drones for sports, private activities and commercial purposes.

Those who wish to import, own or operate drones will also be expected to apply to KCAA and pay a fee. The drone pilots, who must have a liability insurance, will also be limited to 400 feet above ground level.

The proposed regulations also ban flying drones over or around strategic installations and radar sites unless one has a permit from KCAA.

The agency had also proposed a ban on importation of military-grade drones by civilians, while those wishing to bring in commercial drones would have to notify the aviation agency in writing and obtain a registration certificate.

In Tanzania, even though the importation of drones is allowed, one must get express authority from the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) to bring them in, including a user-pilot certification from either of the seven accredited institutions.

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“We are engaging stakeholders on the use of drones in our airspace. We believe that they are important for our economic development. The regulations we are proposing will include detection and interception mechanisms,” TCAA director general Hamza Johari said.

Mr Johari said that the surveillance and detection mechanism will ensure safety of other airspace users, and also allow authorities to intercept UAVs that go against the regulations.

Currently, Dar es Salaam and Kigali only allow daytime operation of drones. Drone operators in Tanzania must also insure the aircraft.

TCAA has also classified the remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) into three: Light (under seven kg); medium (between seven and 150 kg) and large (over 150kg). However, for the medium and large RPAS, one must get a special permit from the Ministry of Defence.

To boost safety, drones are not allowed within a five-kilometre radius of Tanzania’s international airports in Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro, and within a three kilometre radius of domestic airports.

Drones are also banned in national parks. Drone pilots must also have a special permit from the civilian aviation authority to fly over populated areas and crowds.

In Rwanda, operators are required to pay for the drones’ insurance and hold a valid remote operator’s certificate issued by the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority.

Operators must also hold a pilot’s licence and a medical certificate. The licence, like Tanzania, must have been received from a drone training institution from Europe, South Africa or the US.

Kigali too, does not allow the use of drones around strategic installations including airports, military bases and radar sites. There are also plans to incorporate drones within the country’s traffic management system later this year.

“We are planning capacity building, drone pilot training and certification of regional drone operators in Rwanda,” said Mr Uwihanganye.

Through its aviation authority, Kigali allows a maximum altitude of 328 feet for flying drones, with a maximum take-off weight of 25 kilogrammes.

To protect its traditional aviation players, the drones cannot be operated within a six-kilometre radius of its airports without clearance from the country’s aviation agency, and must have a special aviation number displayed as assigned by RCAA.

Rwanda has also set speed limits for the drones at not more than 87 knots (100 kph).

Uganda on the other hand remains one of the region’s most restrictive countries for drone operations, with its civil aviation laws demanding a 90-day notice of intent to import into its territory.

It also empowers its Department of Defence to have some clearance duties in certain drone operations as it seeks to ramp up its safety laws.

Like the rest of its neighbours, its amended civil aviation regulations also demands a pilot training certification and bans UAV’s over crowds and cities.

South Africa, which is now being used as a benchmark for successful infusion of drones into its airspace and navigation management system, has managed to address some of the concerns African governments have been having in trying to regulate this new aviation platform.

Recently, during the Africa Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) conference in Mombasa, aviation players raised national security, privacy, accidents, ownership and training as some of the concerns that have held back African governments in regulating the use of drones within their airspaces.

Another challenge is the integration of remotely piloted aircraft systems into current and evolving air traffic management systems, while ensuring the safety and efficiency of aviation operations.

“It is indeed time that we started holding discussions on drones as part of the air traffic management; this will address the safety and national security concerns that several governments and stakeholders have had, which has slowed down regulations in this new sector,” said CANSO deputy director general, Simon Hocquard.

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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