Kenya relies on drones to enforce building regulations

Officials in Kenya will use drones over construction sites across the country as part of a surveillance program to both ensure full compliance with building codes and crack down on contractors working without proper permits.

Authorities in Kenya are taking action to halt a series of structural deficiencies across the country that have been traced to substandard construction or cheap and shoddy materials. The country’s Kiambu district has suffered five major building burglaries in the past three months alone, although the security problem is believed to be widespread. As a result, Kenya’s National Construction Authority (NCA) has announced it will fly drones over construction sites across the country to monitor compliance and identify fraudulent contractors at work without permits.

Speaking to local journalists this month, NCA officials said the drones would be deployed over construction sites, where onboard video, surveying and mapping sensors would be used to verify that the required construction methods and materials were being used. In some cases, the data collected from these flights can be used for verification as the structures progress and as references in the event of a later collapse.

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The NCA’s aerial innovation is an attempt to overcome two obstacles it faces in overseeing construction activity in the nation. The first challenge is the deregulated nature of the sector, which has been exposed since 1986 when lawmakers dissolved Kenya’s state-owned National Construction Corporation. In addition to this relatively free atmosphere, the NCA struggles with chronic understaffing, which limits its scope for action.

The use of drones to monitor construction sites across Kenya is an attempt to overcome both complications and increase safety by ensuring existing requirements and restrictions are met.

“Regarding the staffing issue, we can’t be present in every county,” NCA Executive Director Maurice Aketch told reporters regarding the use of drones as proxy inspectors. “When construction workers and contractors misbehave, there is a law to take action against them.”

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The NCA’s move to drones for construction supervision is the latest in a series of moves across Kenya to take advantage of UAV technologies.

For example, Kenya Airlines has launched a drone training program for people who want to get started with delivery, mapping, surveying and other air service businesses. The national carrier is also working on introducing air taxi services in 2025.

Several NGOs, meanwhile, are using watercraft to help prevent environmental damage, and many counties in Keyna are also using UAVs to combat serious malaria problems. Authorities have also joined colleagues across Africa, turning to specialist instant logistics companies like Zipline and Swoop Aero to conduct drone deliveries of health supplies to remote and underserved communities.

Photo: Amani Nation/Unsplash

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