The 6th cohort of the drone technology training that African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA) is conducting in conjunction with Malawi University of Science & Technology (MUST) dwelt on flood management — that included preparedness, mitigation, recovery and impact assessment.
Another group project was a road map drone system in which the authorities can monitor the country’s road networks if they have been compromised by floods or other factors to alert motorists in advance of any dangers lurking on the roads.
The two major tropical storms that hit the country — Cyclone Ana in January and Cyclone Gombe this month — claimed lives of motorists, whose cars were swept away by heavy water overflow on bridge decks which they were unaware had been heavily damaged.
Many others have fallen prey to such road compromises, coupled with the displacement of families due to the tropical cyclones thus prompting ADDA and MUST to concentrate on disaster management through the drone technology, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
The ADDA was established to equip young people in Malawi and the African Region with necessary 21st Century skills and strengthen the drone ecosystem to aid humanitarian and development responses and after partnering with MUST, the Malawi courses have included half of the cohorts from other countries.
At the 6th cohort graduation at MUST Campus at Goliati in Thyolo, the graduands — from four groups — explained their project innovations and centre of it was the disaster management and intervention using drones.
The course involved real time situations from flood affected areas of Chikwawa and Mulanje in which they also tested for search & rescue operations using infrared to detect human presence; a megaphone and search lights to communicate with the victims.
The road damage assessment project is in line with the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on road and infrastructure safety to detect road collapse, sink holes, strong water flows on bridge decks; cut off bridges and other hazards.
This is to warn off motorists and the rest of the general public as well as for the authorities to rush to the scene and repair the compromised spots.
The other group centered on precision agriculture in which farmers can be able to apply chemical such as fertilizer and pesticides on precision mode to accurately distinguish healthy crops from disease-stressed ones.
This encompasses protecting the farmer from risk of inhaling the chemicals that can be toxic to the body; to avoid wastage of chemicals by just spraying randomly, which is the traditional mode of chemical application that can be costly due to wastage.
Just as in the last cohort, from the 16, half were foreign students from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroun, The Gambia, Kenya, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia. The last cohort has foreign students from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and Eswatini.
Emphasis is also on equal representation and the 6th cohort had 10 females, which impressed MUST’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof Jonathan Makuwira, saying this affirms their commitment of granting equal opportunities.
He encouraged the students that they were the “game changers” in as far as driving the high technology agenda in line with the MW2063 industrialisation and technology agenda.
“The African continent is full of youths who are emerging into a new generation of scientists and innovators,” he said. “You have a huge task ahead of you as this means of you taking up leadership roles.”
Also of interest was that all the instructors were local, which is an indication that this technological advancement is leaving its huge mark to produce skilled workforce that will support and advance the MW2063.
From the rigorous the 5-week course, the graduands received two level 2 certificates — Drone & Data technology and Trusted Operator Programme as well as Remote Pilot Licence administered by Malawi Department of Civil Aviation.
The ADDA is carrying out this training in 25 African countries through partnership with UNICEF and US-based Virginia Tech and Furham Universities and so far it has graduated over 506 youths with 70% of them in jobs.
MUST is also in partnership with Technical, Entrepreneurial & Vocational Education and Training Authority (TEVETA) that identifies and trains community innovations that can be commercialized targeting the high population of unemployment amongst young people.