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Man linked to drone that ‘strayed’ into DP Ruto’s home released on bail

A foreigner linked to a drone that caused panic after straying into the private residence of Deputy President William Ruto in Karen Nairobi has been released on a cash bail of Sh500,000 by a Milimani magistrate court.

Piotr Lukasz Litwiniuk, a Polish tourist, was granted the bail by Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku after denying four charges related to importation and operating an unmanned aircraft system without a permit and authorisation by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA).

He was also charged with operating unmanned aircraft system without pilot licence and failing to register the drone with the KCAA.

Mr Litwiniuk was given an alternative of depositing a bond of Sh200,000, to secure the temporary freedom pending the determination of the criminal case which was slated to start in two weeks.

The prosecution told court that the tourist contravened the civil aviation (unmanned aircraft systems -UAS) regulations, 2020.

Under the rules, only Kenyan citizens, residents, businesses and governments are eligible to own a drone.

Foreigners can only be able to own it by leasing it locally. However, the law also provides for a 30-day temporary permit that may be suitable for travellers. To get such a permit, the traveller is supposed to pay a fee of Sh20,000.

To bring a drone into the country the importer is supposed to pay an importation fee of Sh3,000 and register it with KCAA at a fee of  the same amount.

The law provides that operating a drone in the Kenyan airspace, the owner or the operator should have a remote operators certificate which will be issued for Sh80,000 every year and whose renewal will be done at Sh50,000.

The law says owner or an operator of a drone should not use it to conduct surveillance or take images of a person without that person’s written consent. This is to protect privacy of persons and property and nuisance.

The drone owner or operator is also prohibited from using a system equipped with an imaging device to record an image of privately owned or leased real property or of the owner, tenant, occupant, invitee, or licensee of such property with the intent to conduct surveillance on the individual or property without his or her written consent.

The law says a drone licence can be suspended or cancelled in the interest of public safety, national security or for violating the requirements and conditions.

Mr Litwiniuk, the court heard, imported an aircraft system – Mavic Air2 drone model number MA2UE3W without a permit issued by KCAA – through the Moi international Airport in Mombasa on January 7, 2021.

Later on March 29 he operated it in Karen area Nairobi without the authorisation by KCAA and without a remote pilot licence from KCAA.

Police officers drawn from the General Service Unit (GSU) who were manning the Deputy President’s private residence spotted the drone flying over the residence.

The officers monitored the drone as it retreated to a neighbour’s compound and the incident was reported to Hardy Police Station and investigations commenced.

The investigation was later referred to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI)  whose officers visited the scene together with the officer commanding hardy police station.

The detectives found the drone and on interrogation, the Pole said he is a tourist in Kenya for holiday.

The case will be mentioned on April 15.

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