Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Christopher Darlington is a drone pilot and mechanic. He shoots music videos, ceremonies and documentaries for his clients. He charges between Shillings 300,000 and 500,000 and is glad business is available. Darlington looks forward to the first and last two months of the year because these are peak times in his business.
Beginning of the year comes with New Year celebrations and graduations while end of year comes with marriage ceremonies. He gets customers in different parts of the country where he also meets different difficulties that could damage his machines.
According to Darlington, sometimes he has to film in a windy area, which exposes his machine to damage. Wind can affect the jimbo claps, a component of the drone that holds the camera in position to avoid unnecessary movements.
He says one would have to part with Shillings 1.5 million to replace it. Some drone have sensors that can detect objects and alert the pilot while others don’t. A drone can also suffer an accident when it hits an object, crash into a tree or birds.
“A severe crash could affect the camera, Jimbo claps and the transmitter that carries the image from the camera to the storage,” he said. Darlington says that the cost of replacing the damaged components can be quite expensive.
A set of propellers costs between Shillings 250, 000 and 300,000 while batteries go for about Shillings 350,000 and 400,000. A camera would cost about Shillings 1.5million.
Darlington explains that it is more difficult to replace the parts because there is no local shop for drones. One either buys second hand components from colleagues with spoilt drones or makes or orders online.
He buys spoilt drones to get spare parts for his customers. He also uses online shopping platform eBay to ship in spare parts and new drones. A new drone, he says goes for close to Shillings 3.5million Shillings and shipping costs Shillings 500,000.
Darlington just like other drone operators has to face such risks. There is no insurance for drone as of now. However, insurers have been tipped on drone insurance as a product worth including on their packages.
This was in a workshop held at Royal Suits Bugolobi by Fly Lab-, a Non-government Organization that seeks to provide solutions to Uganda’s challenges and needs through use of appropriate robotics and supportive technologies.
Joshua Ogwal, the training Manager Uganda Flying School, says that drones are prone to various risks especially during flying. He says insurance companies can have an insurance package of accidents since drones can hit an object in the air and fall down or could just lose control just like any other aviation machine.
An insurer could also have insurance in regards to violating security rules like flying over restricted area. Civil Aviation Authority-CAA has earmarked areas acting as no-fly zones for drones in Uganda. They include State House – Entebbe, State house – Kampala, Entebbe International Airport, and the Presidential Ranch in Gomba.
According to Uganda Revenue Authority-URA, there are 442 drones in the country. The use of Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems commonly known as Drones is steadily increasing in the country especially in the music and film industry. These can be used in Oil and Gas infrastructure mapping, precision aerial surveying, cargo, train and track inspection.
In April this year, Fly Labs introduced drones to government for use in delivering health commodities and other health products to Kalangala Islands. This was intended to ease the transportation of the same.
Tina Mutabazi, the Coordinator of Fly Labs says there are several issues that need to be taken into consideration by both the insurer and the operator. For instance she says drone operators should sensitize the community within, which they operate their drones to avoid cases of evasion of privacy.
She adds that such scenarios associated with drones should also be looked at by companies that would embrace drone insurance. Drone insurance primarily covers third-party liability, bodily injury and property damage claims for small business owners.
Simon Kalanzi, an underwriting secretary at ICEA insurance company, says drones are a new venture for insurance. He says there are opportunities for both insurance companies and their clients considering that their usage is growing.
He however says that Insurance companies would have to come up with regulations and requirements upon transacting with drone operators. For instance, he says they should mind the expertise of the operators and their commitment to following aviation laws.
Christopher Darlington is eager to know how drone insurance will help the business. He hopes the insurance will not be so expensive for them. CAA together with the Air Navigation Services, the Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency and UCC are currently drafting a set of regulations that will be used to govern drone operations in the country.
Among the regulations is that an operator must have a Remote Pilot License from the CAA, a URA certificate and must have paid value added tax, among other requirements before a drone is operated. With the existence of proper regulations governing this industry, it makes it easy for the insurance company to make business transaction with the operators or owners of drones.