Image Credit: UNICEF

Malawi has opened Africa’s first Drone and Data Academy.

The initiative, according to UNICEF, is part of efforts to promote the use of drones in programs and services that will impact the lives of children and young people. 

In June 2017, UNICEF and partners opened a drone testing corridor in Malawi to investigate various ways Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) could be used for humanitarian work.

Many startup companies, university researchers and other drone experts from around the world jumped at the chance to try out their ideas.

Commenting on the project, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said: “Humanitarian and development program 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,” he added.

The African Drone and Data Academy is going to be a center of excellence that will dually equip young people in Malawi and the African region with necessary 21st-century skills while strengthening the drone ecosystem for more effective humanitarian and development response, SUAS News reported.

The curriculum has been developed in partnership with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) – following its successful delivery of 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.

RELATED READING: RWANDA IN PARTNERSHIP WITH ONEWEB LAUNCHES ICYEREKEZO SATELLITE TO CONNECT RURAL SCHOOLS TO THE INTERNET

Aligned with UNICEF’s global #Drones4Good and #Data4Good vision, the academy in the first two years, will enroll around 125 students to participate in a 10-week course.

RELATED READING: SOUTH AFRICAN DRONE STARTUP CLOUDLINE RECEIVES SEED FUNDING FROM UNICEF’S INNOVATION FUND

In year three, a more in-depth program will enable 30 students to receive a Master’s in Drone and Data Innovation – the first of its kind focusing on the specific needs of the global south worldwide.

“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 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.”