When I was 21 years old and a third year student at the Technical University of Kenya, I courageously (and maybe naively, at the time) declared to the Aerospace department that I would like to design Kenya’s first aircraft, project name The Kenya One Project. I was only in third year of my 5 year course.
As guessed, I didn’t get the biggest backing or serious consideration that ought to be given. Luckily for me, my classmates and a few students from other classes joined me. Without any experience or threshold knowledge we set off and at the end of the semester we called people to come see what we had done. Only four lecturers and four students showed up. I still to this day believe that was the best presentation I ever made. We didn’t lose hope. The following semester went well as we were featured on NTV’s Amazing World of Engineering (AWEsome series).
Question that changed my life…
The project never got the full publicity and support it required but we marched on. On July 2015 we got a chance to showcase our 1.5 years of work at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, which was opened by the then President Barrack Obama. It is there somebody raised their hand amongst the crowd and asked “Eeerm sir, do you think we can build a drone that can travel from Nairobi to Mombasa?”
“Eeerm sir, do you think we can build a drone that can travel from Nairobi to Mombasa?”
My life in the drone industry begins.
The person who asked the question was Mr. Patrick Tonui, the then Technical Advisor to the ministry of Commerce, Tourism and East African Affairs.
We made the first fixed wing drone, with very less design work involved. Due to lack of money to but materials and electronics, we made the drone out of plywood and polythene paper. The plywood parts and wing ribs were cut using a 3D CNC machine. The flight only lasted a few seconds .The plane took off immediately after take-off run, rolled aggressively in the air and landed on a nearby fence. Post flight analysis showed the CG was way behind, the rudder wasn’t trimmed well and the crosswinds affected the take-off as well.
We then went ahead improving the designs, twelve flights and three drones later we were able to achieve first flight and it has been a roll down the hill since then.
The IATA Innovation Award
How much can one believe in themselves? I remember I was only less than two months old in the company, having just graduated. And one day I walk in the CEO office and ask him if I can participate in the award and submit my ideas.
Frankly, it is not often that any company has the guts to do so, leave alone coming from a 6-month old company in a small country in Africa. The project was dubbed “UTM (UAV Traffic Management) Concept for Africa” I won this project in Abu Dhabi at the IATA World Cargo Symposium. This statement sounds simple but let me put it this way, it was the single-most uplifting and learning experience for me.
My passion in knowledge sharing and empowering technology in Africa.
I have had the chance to interact with African governments and youth from all corners of the continent. I have in my short experience in aviation listened and brainstormed on the possible routes we can take as a continent to create the future we all envision for this beautiful homeland.
I have offered free lessons on CAE but now that I am busy with work I can only share my experience through video tutorials and blog posts.