Malawi: First Drone and Data Academy Opens in Malawi - to Improve Service Delivery for Children

(file photo).
14 January 2020

The first African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA) has opened in Lilongwe, Malawi, UNICEF announced on Monday January 13.

Here you go: First intake of drone academy Students will also learn how to make sense of data collected by drones through cartography and visualization

According to UNICEF Malawi, the move is part of efforts to promote the use of drones in programmes and services that will impact the lives of children and young people.

UNICEF Malawi and the Government of Malawi have been spearheading the use of drones and data in international development and humanitarian context.

"Humanitarian and development programme delivery in Africa and beyond can benefit significantly from the application of drone technology," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said the African Drone and Data Academy will.

UNICEF says drones, data and artificial intelligence are leapfrog technologies that allow more informed and agile development response and potentially accelerate economic growth in the region.

"To get there, we do need to overcome one major hurdle: Malawi and neighbouring countries lack the qualified personnel needed to seize the opportunities offered by drone and data technology.

"Therefore, education and local capacity building are needed to enable these digital advances to bring lasting change to the country and beyond," says UNICEF.

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 academy plans to train approximately 150 students to build and pilot drones by 2021.

Funding from UNICEF's partners will provide free tuition to the first cohort of 26 students from across Africa.

Commenting on the development, Director of Malawi's Department of Civil Aviation James Chakwera, 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."

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 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."

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).

The course will combine theoretical and practical methodologies in making, testing and flying drones.

The academy 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.

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