Kenyan uncrewed aerial vehicle (UAV) – also known as a remotely-piloted aircraft system (RPAS) or a drone – operator Astral Aerial Solutions has been authorised to start commercial UAV operations in the East African country. Astral Aerial Solutions is a subsidiary of dedicated Kenyan air cargo operator Astral Aviation, and is the first drone operator in the country to be granted a commercial RPAS Operator’s Certificate by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA).
Astral Aviation set up Astral Aviation Services as far back as 2016. In 2019, Astral Aviation founder and CEO Sanjeev Gadhia explained to Engineering News that only 80% of Africa’s population was connected with modern transport systems, with the remainder living in rural villages. This created an opportunity for larger, cargo-carrying UAVs, for longer distance missions, covering hundreds and not dozens of kilometres.
Last month, Gadhia informed the Vaccine Logistics Virtual Summit (organised by Logistics Update Africa) that Astral Aerial Solutions was already demonstrating the use of cargo drones to distribute Covid-19 vaccines. In this endeavour, the company was working with the KCAA, UAV manufacturers and vaccine producers.
In his interview with Engineering News in 2019, he defined larger cargo drones as those capable of carrying payloads between 50 kg and 2 000 kg. At that time, his company had already chosen a Spanish designed- and built-drone, the Singular Aircraft Flyox, to carry out these missions. The Flyox has a range of 1 200 km and is amphibious. The UAV has been further developed by Singular Aircraft over the past few years and remains Astral’s choice for its large cargo UAV type.
At the start of July last year, the company announced that it was collaborating with German small UAV manufacturer Wingcopter for last-mile delivery services. This collaboration was focused on the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines and other medications.
Further, last September, UAV company Drone Delivery Canada (DDC) and its sales agent Air Canada activated a letter of intent (LoI) with Astral Aerial Solutions. Under the terms of the LoI, the companies would cooperate with each other and with the KCAA to identify and evaluate market opportunities in Kenya for DDC’s UAV-based delivery service. The aim was to develop a definitive agreement between them, covering the Kenyan market.