Flying labs fly into Zimbabwe

At the time they are celebrating the fifth anniversary since the launch of the first lab in Nepal, WeRobotics’ network of Flying Labs has welcomed a new member to the family.

This time it was Zimbabwe’s turn.

After a year of rigorous integrity testing, Precision Aerial Zimbabwe finally passed the fit and proper persons scrutiny and got inducted into the Flying Labs family, the thirtieth in the world; eighteenth in Africa and sixth in Southern Africa; after Le Reunion, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia and Zambia Flying Labs.

And they cannot wait to get started on the drone-based solutions they have for the humanitarian situations in the country.

We mean; we have written enough articles on this website for you to remember what Flying Labs do, right? Back in 2015, following the devastation of the earthquake in Gorkha, Nepal, which left nearly 9,000 dead and thousands more homeless, WeRobotics teamed up with Kathmandu University to organise a locally-led technological response to future humanitarian issues.

So the first Flying Lab was born, the overriding theme being to empower local start-up with the requisite knowledge to make them as competitive as any expatriate entity, so that when international organisations come calling, they will be ready.

Well; Zimbabwe Flying Labs are ready to fly now. The team of Managing Director, Tawanda Chihambakwe, Communication Manager, Diana Banda; Research and Technology Lead, Ian Mutamiri; and Head of Technical Operations George Chingore has said they are on hand to put drone technology to good humanitarian use by working to solve social challenges and local needs through the sustainable use of appropriate drone and robotics technologies.

“We are passionate about applications of drones and robotics that make our country better, by bringing cutting edge technology solutions to areas they can make the most impact and improve the lives of people,” said Zimbabwe Flying Labs in a statement. “We promote the use of drones and airspace for the common good and are active with stakeholder engagement on drone policies and ethical guidelines. We hope to bridge the gap between communities and technologies by ensuring that the benefits of drones, robotics and emerging technologies are available where they are needed the most.”

Landlocked Zimbabwe does have social, infrastructural and humanitarian challenges in which drone technology can step in to help. Last year, the eastern parts of the country were battered by Idai, a powerful cyclone that destroyed roads, bridges, swept millions of hectarage in arable land and left more than 270,000 people homeless. The United Nations had to bring in drones to make rounds in the area to get better information on the scale of devastation.

“We are forming a nationwide Drones For Good platform that will be a network of professional drone pilots, drone data analysts, team leaders and disaster professionals that will assist the local government and rescue workers in disaster management.”

Besides, with drone technology still little known in the country – the number of licenced drone operators may not fill the fingers in one hand – the new flying lab will have its hands full coordinating training workshops in the country. But, according to Tawanda, they are ready for that challenge too.

“We have already partnered with Purple Future Trust (a local education technology organisation), who will help us as we try to engage local tertiary institutions introduce drone training to their students,” Tawanda said. “Purple Future will help by providing software development to the programmes we will be introducing.”

The lab says they will also stay with in touch students and clients after the initial training, to support them as they try to find their feet. “We facilitate and strengthen the local drone and robotics ecosystem by working with diverse local teams and collaborating with innovators, manufacturers, service providers, academic institutions, NGOs, community and the government to develop an ecosystem for drones for Social Good.”


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