Kenya’s first private television station KTN used a UAV to cover the May day celebration at the Uhuru Park grounds in Nairobi. The event which was broadcast live across all Kenya TV stations was attended by top workers’ union officials, several government representatives and members of parliament.
alongside other broadcast tools to compliment the coverage. KTN did this, although, I think the crew got carried away with using the technology and were inclined to occasionally pan the camera to show the drone cruising above the crowd. The drone should not be the story, it shouldn’t distract the important goal of the coverage nor should it compete with the subject , it should only be deployed when necessary to enrich the perspective of the coverage. At AfricanSkyCAM we aim to use and test civilian UAVs and camera-equipped balloons in proof of concept projects to convince media houses to adopt the use of low-cost drone technology in storytelling. Based in Nairobi, AfricanSkyCAM
is in the process of expanding across the continent. I have just been selected for a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in the US. to establish a continental association, africanDRONE, to help both media and mainstream users of drone technology access training, equipment, and technical support..
technology. The partnership with CCTV Africa provided us with an exciting opportunity to work with an Afrocentric media to showcase the use of unmanned aerial vehicles which we believe will enrich story telling and broadcast coverage across the continent. Taking advantage of the visit to Kenya of Ben Kreimer from the Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska, CCTV Africa and the AfricanSkyCam project visited the Ol Pejeta conservancy to film the park and its animals. The backstory: How we did it.
That new technologies are changing journalism is no longer news. However, the disruption being caused by these technologies have left media businesses and journalists grappling to make sense of the ongoing change and trying to make themselves both profitable
and relevant in this new age. News consumers, who are now more connected than ever before, thanks to the internet, are also exerting pressure on media businesses to reform and add value in reporting stories and infuse new perspectives in their coverage.
Lake Victoria aerial shot
The African News Innovation Challenge, an initiative of the African Media Initiative, provides a platform and funding for African media and journalists to discuss and seek answers to these emerging challenges. In the inaugural competition in 2012, some 20 winners submitted projects which varied from setting up
fact-checking platforms, social media newswire and news monetising models. My pitch, AfricanSkyCAM, also a winner, was to use unmanned aerial vehicles and camera-equipped balloons to give journalists an ‘eye in the sky’ while covering fast moving stories and or negotiating difficult terrain — to give an added perspective in storytelling.
World’s leading media stations like American’s CNN, UK’s BBC and Australia’s ABC have integrated the use of civilian drones in covering stories. AfricanSkyCAM is a pioneer in the continent, using proof of concept projects to make a strong case for using low-cost drone technology in storytelling.
Machakos People’s park aerial shot
Last month, in partnership with Ben Kreimer from the Drone Journalism Lab University Nebraska, we set out to tell stories using a DJI phantom quadcopter — this equipment is shipped as a toy. We covered the KCB rally at the beautiful Machakos People’s Park. The quality of the footage we got from
an elevated angle accentuated the beauty of the park and provided a broader spectrum of the coverage of the rally event.
KCB Machakos Rally 2014
Civilian use of drone technology is not limited to journalism. We also visited Stuart Barden, proprietor of AusQuest farm in Athi River. Stuart farms just over 1,000 acres. He uses modern machinery and technology in farming including GPS precision farming and UAVs fitted with near infrared cameras which produces data that give information on plant health.
Stuart Barden farm in Athi River.
Tech giants Facebook and Google are currently developing exciting projects of using civilian drones and balloons to provide internet to isolated areas around the world. In Kenya, La Fondation Bundi, a Swiss non-profit initiative has received 35 applications internationally to partner with Kenya’s tech community to develop unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying load for some distance. The project’s
aim is to have the first commercial ‘flying donkeys’ in Africa around 2020, which will carry 20 kilos of cargo over 50 kilometres in less than one hour along an established network. The project mirrors online shopping giant Amazon’s futuristic plans to use UAVs to deliver parcels to American homes.
Low-cost drone technology provides Africa with a tool to explore its rich diversity in flora and fauna, stories which have mostly been told by foreigners. Before we produced a promotional video for the beautiful Paradise Lost recreation park in Kiambu County, we tried to find a video that told the history of this beautiful park which has been visited for decades and was used by the Mau Mau freedom fighters — but there was nothing.
Paradise Lost recreational park, Kiambu County
AfricanSkyCAM is successfully making a strong case for the use of UAVs as a tool that allows journalists to tell
‘old stories’ in a new way. We also partnered with CCTV Africa in a wildlife project at the Ol Pejeta conservancy to demonstrate the amazing use case of a UAV. Our aim was to give a different perspective on Kenya’s wild spaces and wild animals which we achieved with remarkable results.
A family of elephants at the Ol Pejeta conservancy
Africa is a massive continent, with vast numbers of its one billion people still living in isolated rural
areas. Few, if any African media, own their own helicopters, and only a handful can afford to hire helicopters to cover major stories. Journalistic drones have the potential to revolutionise media access to frontline events, as well as strengthen journalistic independence for these kinds of stories.