The success of a Ugandan self-taught drone pilot

12/25/2017 10:19:39 AM
Author: Andrea Dijkstra

Civilian drones are becoming more popular, not only in Europe and America but also in Africa. Ugandan videographer Asaph Kasujja has found his niche as a successful drone pilot - shooting video images for music videos, international documentaries and even the inauguration of the Ugandan president.

Asaph Kasujja actually dreamed of becoming a ‘real’ pilot but after finishing high school, he realized he couldn’t raise the 18.000 US dollars needed for the training. “You either join the army or go to the flight school but my parents couldn’t afford that. So I switched to videography”, 26-year-old Kasujja says while he launches his white drone on the shores of Lake Victoria, just outside the Ugandan capital of Kampala.

Ordering a drone by Internet

Five years ago, he and his business partner saw drones for the first time on TV and realized they could use them in their filming work. They pooled their savings and ordered for 800 US dollars a drone by Internet while shipping cost them another 200 dollars. They struggled to get it flying but after meeting an experienced drone pilot who advised them to calibrate the drone and not to fly it indoors, their plan took off.

Nowadays, Kasujja runs a successful business that sees him filming for all kinds of assignments, from music videos to international documentaries. The videographer even got an assignment from the Ugandan president to capture aerial shots during his latest inauguration. His travels also took him to northern Uganda - where most people never have seen a drone before. “As many people in these areas experienced war, they got scared, ran away and hid in their huts”, Kasujja tells. 

Report to the police

When an unknown person flew a drone over the State House, two years ago, Kasujja nearly got into trouble. The government ordered all drone owners to report to the police, or their drones would be confiscated, although there are no official rules on flying drones in Uganda. “I reported at the Central Police Station in Kampala and all the officers gathered around me and the drone. Suddenly I was a celebrity. Instead of reprimanding me, the police officers were all excited”, Kasujja says.

Kasujja’s success may be also a result of having a strong money-saving ethic. “Everything I earn, I have to save to be able to replace a drone, as soon as it crashes”, the Ugandan explains who crashed already several drones. “Many people in Africa lack this money saving culture and they become discouraged because whenever their drone crashes, that’s the end of their business.”

Crashes several drones

A drone can crash for several reasons. “Electricity pylons, phone masts or WiFi signals might interfere with the signal between the controller and the drone. That’s why I prefer to fly above open fields or Lake Victoria.” But even above the lake, the videographer lost a drone after he replaced its normal camera with a GoPro, not realizing that interference from its Wi-Fi signal would make the device uncontrollable.

“I was flying some twenty meters from the shores when it just went slowly down the water. I panicked, pressed the joysticks, but nothing happened and the drone just sank.” Luckily it was a waterproof GoPro. “I lost the aircraft but I paid some divers to save the Go Pro that even recorded the fish under the water.”

Photo credit: Jeroen van Loon

< Previous Next >

Related articles