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Kilimanjaro Drone Makes A Successful Ascent To The Summit

Mark Whitman

We often get asked: can you use a drone on Mount Kilimanjaro?

Unfortunately, you are not allowed to use a Kilimanjaro drone without first getting special permission from the Kilimanjaro National Park authorities (and this means paying a steep fee!).

Some people have clearly got that permission for a specialised Kilimanjaro drone. For example, here is an awesome video that includes lots of drone footage from Mount Kilimanjaro.

The first ever Kilimanjaro drone

And here is a story behind the first Kilimanjaro drone to fly near the summit.

A quadcopter, a drone with four rotor blades, has made it just shy of the peak of Kilimanjaro.

The quadcopter Kilimanjaro drone was specially built by Cheetah Air to record the progress of a team that climbed the mountain from February 17 to 25, 2015. The company’s chief technology officer, Edan Cain, assembled two drones on-site, having brought the components in his backpack.


The first ever Kilimanjaro drone and the Kilimanjaro Climb For Valour

The trekkers who used the Kilimanjaro drone represented the Kilimanjaro Climb for Valour and was led by Eddie Frank, who has climbed Kilimanjaro 51 times in the last 39 years and once worked closely with US special forces as a high altitude training consultant. The climbers included two active special forces soldiers and family members of two who died on the job.

The sponsored climb accompanied by a Kilimanjaro drone flying overhead was for the benefit of Duskin & Stephens, a charity that assists the families of fallen special forces members. The charity is named after two special forces soldiers killed by small arms fire in Afghanistan in 2012: Chief Warrant Officer “Big Mike” Duskins, who died aged 42, and Sergeant First Class Riley Stephens, who perished at the age of 38.

kilimanjaro drone

The Kilimanjaro drone reached 19,000 feet, close to the summit – Mount Kilimanjaro is 19,341 feet. While it had been intended that it would reach the summit, this was not attempted because, in Cain's words, the weather took a turn and “the winds had really picked up.” His defence was that “This was truly the case of ‘discretion, which is the better part of valour.’”

What the future holds for the Kilimanjaro drone

Beyond supporting the climbers, Cheetah Air performed groundbreaking high altitude research amidst 30mph winds and a temperature of five degrees Fahrenheit. Cain expounded, “We went knowing that the drones would be taxed to their limit and beyond in this rugged environment.” He was pleased by the results: “To see it work, and work well, considering the highest we had tested it in California was 9,500 feet, was hugely exciting,” He informed the world that Cheetah would return with “an even more powerful craft and Mother Nature’s support” in the future. 

The company declared that lessons learned from this Kilimanjaro drone endeavour had been invaluable, bringing it closer to its objective of using quadcopters to send medicine to climbers in need and assist search-and-rescue operations. Other applications for drones include pipeline monitoring, precision agriculture and product delivery.

Can I Fly A Drone On Mt. Kilimanjaro?

Kilimanjaro scanner at gate

Bags are checked and hikers scanned for drones and other illegal items at the entrance gates to Kilimanjaro.

According to Tanzanian Park regulations. Visitors are not allowed to fly drones on Mount Kilimanjaro or in any other national park in Tanzania.

The park authorities very rarely make an exception to this rule and even if they did, you would need to abide by Tanzania's very strict regulations for flying drones. To be able to fly a drone on Kilimanjaro, you would need a pilot's licence, licence from Tanzania's Civil Aviation authority and also clearance from the Ministry of Defence and National Park's Service.

It's a lot of hoops to jump through and ends up costing a small fortune!

The authorities take the no-drone policy very seriously. Bags are scanned at the entrance gates and any unauthorized drones will be confiscated.

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Mark Whitman

Hi, I'm Mark! Welcome to Climb Kilimanjaro Guide - the Web's No.1 Trekking Guide to Mount Kilimanjaro. This site is your one stop shop for everything Kilimanjaro. To date over 5 million people have visited Climb Kilimanjaro Guide, many of which have gone on to summit Kili! I hope you find all the answers you are looking for, but if you have any questions don't hesitate to drop a comment below!

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    1. Hi Arun, I believe you need to get special permission from the National Park to fly a drone. It is worth reaching out to them.

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