July 30, 2014

The Flying Donkey Challenge is on hold!

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The Flying Donkey Challenge idea started almost two years ago and for the past year we have been planning the first edition in Kenya.

We have had tremendous support from Kenyan partners including: IBM Research, University of Nairobi – FabLab, Lewa & NRT Conservancy, SGS, Sandstorm, and many friends of the FDC. The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) and military air traffic controllers at Nanukyi have been very helpful in working with us to find solutions to organise a life changing event. We would like to thank all of them for their trust and commitment to the project.

Due to delays in obtaining final approvals from the Kenyan authorities, we took the difficult decision in April to postpone the first edition of the FDC. Beginning with the horrific Westgate attack last September in Nairobi and following the tragic terrorist attacks near Lamu this month, it has become clear that organising a high visibility drone event in Kenya is incompatible with immediate security concerns. To be clear, it is not that cargo drone testing presents any threat whatsoever to Kenya, or that international participants would be at risk from travelling to Kenya, but only that, for the coming months, the overseers of civil and military aviation in Kenya have made it clear they are unlikely to be able to sign off on legal precedents for autonomous flight.

Since April, we have been pursuing air space approvals and locations in other African locations. While these talks have been productive, our unfortunate conclusion is that we will not be able to confirm a new date and location in 2015. Without a clear time-scale, closing on the budget is not possible. Taking into account the speed with which research and commercial drone ventures are proceeding, we feel it unfair to leave the teams that have applied for the Challenge in limbo and prefer to put the Flying Donkey Challenge in its current format on hold.

We strongly believe in the future of cargo drones and are looking into ways to reposition some of the great ideas and projects presented. The goal is unchanged: a new transport industry of donkey-sized cargo drones in Africa and beyond that can safely and affordably move 20-50 kilo payloads on low-altitude routes, creating jobs and growing economies.

We look forward to a booming flying donkey future.

The Flying Donkey Team