On this Women’s Day in South Africa…
Today’s Drone of Reason is a no-brainer: August 9 every year is Women’s Day in South Africa, a day which derives its superpowers to the women’s marching protest in 1956; when more than 20,000 women of all races staged a march on the government headquarters Union Buildings in the city of Pretoria in protest against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act of 1950, commonly referred to as the “pass laws”.
The march was led by Lillian Ngoyi (part of whose street in Johannesburg was sadly blown up by a suspected gas explosion recently), Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams. Other participants included Frances Baard, a statue of whom was unveiled by Northern Cape Premier Hazel Jenkins in Kimberley (formerly Frances Baard District Municipality) on National Women’s Day 2009.
On that day, the women left 14,000 petitions at the office doors of then prime minister J. G. Strijdom, stood in silence for 30 minutes, before breaking into song.
They sang a protest song composed in honour of the occasion: Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.).
Those words have since become a catchphrase to represent women’s courage and strength in South Africa.
Therefore, in recognition of the hugely remarkable work women in South Africa are doing in contribution to the growth of the drone industry in the country; here is our tribute to a few of the drone evangelists out there who have given value to the local drone economy, starting with:
Which we find funny; because South Africa’s favourite Drone Chick could have just stuck to the familiar surroundings of the banking industry as a Human Resources professional – a career to which she had given 20 years of her life. More if you factor in the education she had to get to fit in.
But she and returned to South Africa where she was part of the team that founded UAV Aerial Works, a drone services enterprise that setting standards in drone-based security services.
Now, unmanned aviation has become a passion, besides being a second career. Kim is very active in local drone technology causes, holding posts at Commercial Unmanned Aviation Association of Southern Africa (CUAASA); the Drone Council of South Africa; in addition to making appearances and drone events spreading the drone gospel.
We love Kim for her honest realism on the harsh realities running a drone business; and the dangers of cutting corners in search of a quick buck. Kim has made space in her heart for the up and coming female drone enthusiasts, setting them up for internships and employment with local drone companies.
Besides writing several articles for various media organisations, Kim also made contributions to the three editions of the Drone Professional books, which makes a really nice segue for the next women of note on the South Africa drone landscape.
And agricultural drone technology devotee, Louise is the brains behind the Drone Professional books; an anthology of articles from several drone professionals from around the world, who share their experiences, insights and best practices on a wide range of topic about the technology of civilian drones.
There are three editions of these Amazon bestselling books now; and before them, Louise had written another book on drone technology, called Precision Farming from Above.
She is also the founder of Terreco Aviation, which provides expert guidance to help agribusinesses and civil engineering consultancies gain clarity on the intricacies of commercial drone applications so they can use third party service providers with confidence; or build and operate their own drone capability efficiently, safely and legally.
And that is not all; if you have heard about the Africa Chapter of Women in Drones, Louise started that one too. She had Kim are driving connections and growing networks for female drone professionals in Africa by providing a platform where they can share experiences and exchange ideas.
The Drone Queen is the co-founder of QP Drone Tech, a local drone services company whose speciality is commercial drone services in the areas of social causes and disaster management.
As a custodian of the South African leg of the Flying Labs franchise, Queen has spearheaded made humanitarian and disaster recovery missions, especially in the high-density settlements in Johannesburg that are too close to rivers and get flooded from time to time.
Through South Africa Flying Labs, Queen is also championing the introduction of underprivileged children to drone and robotics technology, setting aside time to travel around the country to explain to the kids how they have lead rewarding careers in robotics.
Kele is the CEO of Africa Beyond 4th Industrial Revolution (AB4IR), a Digital Innovation Hub founded on the market need to redress the digital divide apparent in previously disadvantaged communities of South Africa.
The organisation’s programmes expose disadvantaged communities to the ICT sector focusing on gaming, animation, virtual reality, and drone technology.
In the last regard, AB4IR has – one cohort at a time – already taken several young women aged between 18 and 35 to drone school through Drone Divas, a programme where they learned to use drone skills that included coding, drone building and practical operations.
We have Itu’s drone story here; she dreamt of being a pilot growing up, but was forced to watch that dream go up in smoke the same way most dreams die for so many young hopefuls of an African background.
She couldn’t afford it.
Long story short, Itumeleng found her way to the bottom of the drone value chain, where she started earning her badges, starting with flying skills; then she became a drone pilot instructor.
Now, she is a director at Parthenius Air, where they offer integrated drone solutions for aerial security surveillance, industrial inspections, and aerial surveying and mapping.
Itu also founded the Drone Pilot Network, a group that aims to assist people of previously disadvantaged background to find a footing on the South African Drone space.
A geology expert, Phophi is a mining technologist at mining technology provider Dwyka Mining Services, where she works with drone-based data technology to collect data on various mining premises. She has shared her experiences with drone technology at high profile platforms that include the flagship Drone an Unmanned Aviation Conference, as well as Women in Mining South Africa.
Jacky is the CEO at Tlou Aviation, one of the few drone companies with a Remote Operator’s Certificate (ROC) in South Africa. Founded in 2018, Tlou Aviation’s focus is on helping businesses use drone technology to improve operations, increase safety, and reduce costs.
Today, the company provides drone solutions to hundreds of companies across a wide range of industries.
And it is not only these women listed here; we know there are hundreds of others who are working tirelessly behind the scenes to move the drone industry in South Africa in the right direction. Sonet Kock; Lebohang Toko; Bronwyn McClement; Zethu Gumede; Diana Becker… a lot of women in drones.
We know that – aside from suffering the same frustrations the rest of the local industry sustains as it tries to convince aviation authorities of how the benefits of using drone technology outweighs the costs – these women also face the added challenge of being women in an industry that not long ago was the preserve of the male species.
We salute their courage. In itself, the contribution of women to the drone industry should draw attention to the larger issues that African women still face today – parenting, domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace, unequal pay, and schooling for all girls.
We know there are women fighting these prejudices and vices across the spectrum of governance, industry and on the home front. While there has been significant progress made in bringing women to the forefront in many sectors, we do acknowledge that there is more that still needs done.
But we are proud of the women taking initiative in the drone industry in South Africa. We salute them for their courage and bravery to step into uncharted waters and conquering. And if there is anything that is still wrong with the industry in the country today – it is all the men’s fault.