UNICEF has announced that the first African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA) has opened in Lilongwe, Malawi, supported by the organization and partners including The Global Fund, the German government and other entities from Scotland and Sweden. The opening of the academy is part of efforts to promote the use of drones in programmes and services that will impact the lives of children and young people.
The academy will offer a 12-week course to develop expertise in the use of drones for humanitarian, development and commercial purposes across Africa. The curriculum has been developed in partnership with Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and combines theoretical and practical methodologies in making, testing and flying drones.
UNICEF’s partners have provided funding for free tuition to the inaugural class of the ADDA, which includes 16 students from Malawi and 10 from across Africa, with more than half of students being women with undergraduate degrees in science, technology or engineering. The academy plans to train approximately 150 students to build and pilot drones by 2021, and by 2022 will run a tuition-free two-year master’s degree program in drone technology, in conjunction with Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST).
In conjunction with the Government of Malawi, UNICEF Malawi previously launched a humanitarian drone testing corridor in Kasungu, Malawi in 2017. Drone testing and application work within the corridor has included delivery of medical supplies, emergency response work, crop monitoring, cholera mapping as well as integrating drones into national disaster response and monitoring. UNICEF Malawi has developed a data intelligence node that integrates and analyses aerial and satellite imagery and other types of data for UNICEF’s programmes.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore commented: “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.”
James Chakwera, Director of Malawi’s Department of Civil Aviation, said: “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.”
Kevin Kochersberger, associate professor at Virginia Tech and leader of the project, stated: “The ADDA reflects Virginia Tech’s ongoing commitment to the innovative application of drone technology and education in Malawi and the Africa region. The academy will give graduates the necessary skills for jobs using drone applications ranging from agriculture and health to natural resources monitoring.”