What would make drone technology more impactful?

Participants at the African Drone Forum in Kigali examine one of the drones on display. Leapr Labs, a local drones company, signed deals with three drone companies and a Dutch University. / Emmanuel Kwizera.

To realise the endless possibilities of drone technology in the region, there needs to be a stronger, more creative and collaborative tech ecosystem, experts and stakeholders in the sector have said.

Winners of the recent Africa Business Drone Challenge, that took place at the side-lines of the Africa Drone Forum in Rwanda, said that lack of a collaborative tech ecosystem is a major setback for the sector.

Africa Business Drone Challenge is a business plan competition for African entrepreneurs to uncover new commercial cases for drone applications that demonstrate a high potential for local impact.

The industry is never going to move forward unless people come together and merge their efforts, said Eno Umoh, founder of Global Air Drone Academy and the winner of the grand prize at the competition.

Global Air Drone Academy according to the founder, is an FAA-licensed drone training, education and consultation company that seeks to build the next generation of professional drone pilots.

“I believe that drones will one day universally operate in our airspace preventing disasters and making our lives easier and better. They can put out fires, deliver late at night, and inspect different operations, among others.  In order for this to happen it will be necessary for pilots, drone users, manufacturers, and the regulators to embrace this new technology as one organization,” Umoh said.

Global Air Drone Academy is among the four winners that were selected from 10 finalist teams. They were followed by MicroMek from Malawi and JembeKilimo from Tanzania who were both awarded as runner-ups, leaving Alley Capital Group from Zimbabwe with the public vote.

The teams also bagged home £20,000, £10,000, £10,000 and £2,500 respectively.

For Rose Funji, founder of Jembekilimo, and also an Engineer by profession, there is need for creativity in the sector, as opposed to embracing and adopting the same technologies.

For instance, the engineer said that it’s important to diversify the interventions to ensure that there is more impact.

 “Our product uses drones to give information to farmers. And this is because the agricultural sector needs support when it comes to information,”

“So what we are doing is that we are digitizing farms by recording the farm data. But also using drones to fly over the farm, collect data, analyze it, to determine the health of the crops. Hence advise a farmer on which plants to attend on” she points out.

Additionally, Dumisani Kaliati, founder at MicroMek, local manufacture Drone Company in Malawi observed that young African innovators could also produce their own drones at much lower costs.

The company transports HIV test kits, pregnancy kits and health vaccines for pregnant women and young children.

 “80 per cent of the Malawian population live in rural areas where it’s hard to reach, and it takes currently about 11 days to get samples from the rural areas to the testing facilities. Because of bad road networks, this is interventions that drones can make,” Kaliati pointed out.

And for a vibrant and effective sector, he also urged associated key players to work cohesively to address sector challenges to make the sector more ideal for investments.

Takudzwa Chipdza, Co-Founder, Alley Capital Group, echoed the same sentiments, saying that, besides understanding the technical aspects of the technology, the innovators should have an understanding and context of challenges that countries are grappling with.

Alley Capital Group is a tech company that uses drones to provide crop spraying services.


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