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Home Startups UNICEF launches Africa’s first drone & data academy in Malawi

UNICEF launches Africa’s first drone & data academy in Malawi

by Sam Wakoba
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UNICEF has launched the first African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA) in Lilongwe, Malawi in efforts projected to promote its programmes and services to change the lives of children and young people on the continent.  

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said, “Humanitarian and development programme delivery in Africa and beyond can benefit significantly from the application of drone technology. The African Drone and Data Academy will be instrumental in equipping young people with the skills they need to use the technology to benefit children and their communities.”

Building on the work of Africa’s first humanitarian corridor launched in Malawi in 2017, the academy will develop expertise in the use of drones for humanitarian, development and commercial purposes across the continent through a 12-week course.

The school will train approximately 150 students to build and pilot drones by 2021 and UNICEF and its partners will give free tuition to the first cohort of 26 students from across Africa.

“In Malawi we strongly believe that adopting modern technologies such as drones and advanced data analysis and management techniques will help us to serve our children better. We are proud to partner with UNICEF in such an exciting endeavor,” said James Chakwera, Director of Malawi’s Department of Civil Aviation.

The curriculum has been developed in partnership with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) which has been doing training workshops in Malawi since 2017. The course will combine theoretical and practical methodologies in making, testing and flying drones.

By 2022, the academy will run a tuition-free two-year master’s degree program in drone technology, in conjunction with Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST).  It will also deliver a curriculum that will build local capacity and a favorable ecosystem for the emergence of sustainable business models for using drones for humanitarian and development missions.

“The ADDA reflects Virginia Tech’s ongoing commitment to the innovative application of drone technology and education in Malawi and the Africa region,” said Kevin Kochersberger, associate professor at Virginia Tech who will lead the project. “The academy will give graduates the necessary skills for jobs using drone applications ranging from agriculture and health to natural resources monitoring.”

Rwanda drone startup Zipline delivers critical and lifesaving products precisely where and when they are needed, safely and reliably, every day, across multiple countries. With plans to double down on Africa, Zipline has made 27,859 commercial deliveries already.

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