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Malawi is home to Africa's first drone academy

Karen Asaba (right) from Uganda is one of the 26 students at the African Drone and Data Academy in Malawi

Karen Asaba (right) from Uganda is one of the 26 students at the African Drone and Data Academy in Malawi

Malawi this month opened the first African Drone and Data Academy, with support from the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef).  The academy aims to improve drone technology skills across Africa, beginning with Malawi and neighboring countries.

Karen Asaba developed an interest in drones at Uganda Flying Labs, a Kampala-based drone mapping and data hub. As a student at Malawi’s just opened African Drone and Data Academy, she gets to learn how to build one.

"Right now, we are learning how to assemble a drone from the start, considering its weight, considering the central gravity, considering the GPS and all the electronics that are involved in making the drone,” she said.

Asaba is one of 26 students from across Africa in the first three-month course at the academy, learning to construct and pilot drones. Unicef is backing the program, which this year is expected to train 150 students. Unicef says the academy, and the launch of Africa’s first drone corridor in Malawi in 2016, will promote drones for development and humanitarian use.

Rudolf Schwenk, the country representative for Unicef in Malawi, says the drones will have broad practical applications.

"For example, transporting medical supplies to remove areas or transporting samples very fast, where it will take a lot of time to transport them.  We have also worked on emergency preparedness and response because with data and drone imagery, you can see where flooding will happen,” Schwenk said.

The drone course was developed with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, better known as Virginia Tech. Kevin Kochersberger, an associate professor at Virginia Tech, explained the course's components.

"We go through three modules in this program. They have gone [through] drone logistics, drone technologies so they become very functional in drone[s] - not only being pilots, but they operate and maintain the drones as well,” Kochersberger said.

The drone academy has inspired some students like Thumbiko Nkwawa Zingwe to reach for the stars.

"I have a vision that I can start a first Malawian space agency, which can be utilizing geo-information data for different applications. For example, here in Malawi we are so susceptible to floods as a geo-hazardous anomaly,” Zingwe said.

The African Drone and Data Academy’s first graduates are expected in March. The academy plans to partner with Malawi University of Science and Technology for a free master's degree program in drone technology by 2022. 


+1 #1 juwait kali 2020-01-22 00:22
Way to go Africa its about time remember we have to compete with the rest of the world they are too far ahead.

The secret however is that its never too late! We can't be importing everything. Show them that we're as good as them. Naye mu bikole mukyama.
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0 #2 Amooti Mugi 2020-01-22 01:10
Hope an African fool will not fly a drone near an airport....in civilised countries one will go through rigourous process of certification to fly a drone....
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0 #3 Akot 2020-01-22 19:27
juwait kali, understood but,

Africa is being luered into technology because developed world need money! Who benefit form this modern tools other than useless rulers, tribal leaders, elites who have money!

If United Nations Children's Fund is serious & want to help African children, the first thing is ensure good governance that give EDUCATION to them!

Education is compulsory & is national issue in developed countries & parents who don't send their kids to school lose custody!

Education is the main reason migration to developed countries won't end. The under aged migrating alone are immediately given shelter & sent to schools!

But of course, accommodation, healthcare is given to migrants the moment they are taken in!
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0 #4 Akot 2020-01-22 19:38
Amooti Mugi, agreed, but,

That safety precaution doesn't concern developed world selling their technology to Africa, all they want is markets for their products!

Wars Europe goes in yonder bring them millions through sale of arm, yet they pretend wanting end to wars!

But then again, how African countries are governed, by who, for how long is Africans' business, right?
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+1 #5 Lysol 2020-01-22 22:09
To Amooti Mugi
My kids do fly their drones without any certification. Your post is misleading.
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0 #6 Lakwena 2020-01-23 15:00
In my honest opinion there is no such a thing as Africa's first Drone Academy for Africa's benefit.

In other words, just like the Mobile Phone phenomena; we are just a big mindless market being targeted by the technologically advanced East and West.

E.g., we don't even have enough food to feed ourselves, and a roof over our heads; but quick to buy the latest electronic gadget at all cost.

We just don't have the science and technology to produce drones. All we do is simply the "copy cat" (cut) and paste whatever the already too advanced West does.

E.g., who designs and produces the parts/system like the propellers, motors, frames, sensors and all the complex electronic Joysticks, screens, etc.?
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