Hustle

Uber to test flying taxis in Nairobi

An illustration of a flying car which can carry up to four passengers. PHOTO | AFP
An illustration of a flying car which can carry up to four passengers. PHOTO | AFP
Uber wants to build cars that can fly, with plans to launch an aerial taxi service by 2020.

Online ride-hailing firm Uber is seeking a licence to test flying cars in Kenya.

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) director general Gilbert Kibe on Wednesday said the regulator had received a request from the US-based firm to allow testing of the new concept locally.

Other firms that have also shown interest in flying drones in Kenya include Facebook and the Red Cross.

Uber wants to build cars that can fly, with plans to launch an aerial taxi service by 2020. It has signed a deal with National Aeronautics and Space Administration to develop the service.

“Uber has requested if we can allow them to test their drone taxi that can carry up to four passengers,” said Mr Kibe, pointing out that Kenya will look into their request and see if it can be allowed in the country.

FLYING CARS PLAN

Uber’s interest comes at a time when Nairobi has been identified as one of the launch cities for an ambitious flying cars plan.

The McFly.aero blockchain project has started to set up the infrastructure for air taxis service in 23 cities in 13 countries, including Nairobi.

The regulator says international firms have shown interest in the use of drones in the country following the establishment of regulations to guide operations of unmanned aerial vehicles, which now makes Kenya the third country in the continent after Rwanda and South Africa to have a legal framework in place.

Drone regulations were gazetted last year, paving the way for their use in Kenya. The regulations are, however, supposed to be ratified by Parliament.

The KCAA is on Thursday expected to make a presentation before MPs on the new technology.

LEGAL FRAMEWORK

About 500 drones that had been imported before the legal framework had been put in place were confiscated by the Kenya Revenue Authority.

Mr Kibe says owners of the impounded drones will not pay importation fee but will have to register and pay for operation certificates.

Drones have been categorised into groups which determine the amount of money that users have to pay. For instance, a person importing for recreation purposes would be required to part with Sh60,000.

The amount includes Sh20,000 import fee, Sh20,000 for registration and Sh20,000 for an operating licence.



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