African drone start-ups’ contribution to earth observation

It was a good end of year for Astral Aerial Solutions and a few other drone-based start-up companies that scored big at the 2021 Africa Africa Earth Observation (AEO) Challenge.

The Kenyan drone services company beat the tough challenge of 56 other start-ups from across Africa to win this year’s annual challenge; which seeks to drive entrepreneurial activity in the African space industry and promote awareness of the value of earth observation data across the continent and in multiple sectors such as water and food security, mining, logistics, insurance, and many more.

Earth observation gathers information about the planet’s physical, chemical, and biological systems via remote-sensing technologies. This information can then be used to monitor changes in natural and artificial environments.

The top three start-ups – Astral Aerial Solutions, Ijumaa Data Analytics (both from Kenya) and AgriSpace (Zimbabwe) walked away with a combination of prizes including data packages, Amazon Web Services credits and online incubation and virtual mentorship from the sponsors, who include the South African National Space Agency (SANSA), Maxar, Amazon Web Services and Digital Earth Africa.

Three other start-ups that just fell out of the top three, namely Nyasa Aerial Data Solutions from Malawi, Nigeria’s Aqua Fisheries Farms and Ignitos Logistics of Zambia, are also set to attend the mentorship programme, which starts this month and runs until April.

They may not have come first, but the Malawian start-up are ecstatic that they will have an opportunity to learn from the best in the business about how to grow their venture.

“This success means that our start-up will participate in a four-month online business incubation and virtual mentorship through the Tech-Tribe Accelerator (TTA), and in terms of technology development, we are going to be mentored by experts from Space in Africa,” the company said.

“In addition, we will be provided with high-resolution satellite data from and Amazon Web Services Activation Credits. All of this is worth more than 50,000 USD.”

The team members who will attend the learnership programme include Treaser Mandevu, Patrick Ken Kalonde, Alick Austin, Regeza Kamunga, Tadala Makuluni and Fred Sajiwa.

Last December, the start-up also took part in and was one of the 17 winners at the festive Space Awards of the Copernicus Masters Challenge; recognised by high-ranking industry and institutional representatives, such as the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Commission, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Airbus, UP42, Planet, BayWa AG, Portugal Space, the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) and AZO Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen, the organiser.

Nyasa Aerial Data Solutions competed in the University Challenge cluster of the Copernicus Masters Challenge, which they won alongside St Cloud State University.

The Copernicus Masters Challenge is a global innovation competition at the forefront of Earth Observation (EO) data utilisation and it recognizes innovators fostering new solutions and concepts that showcase the benefits of the European Copernicus services to everyday life.


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