SA’s drone start-up mentorship programme bears fruit

South African drone technology start-up, Mzansi Aero Technologies’ drone mentorship has borne its first fruits.

Well; first thirteen fruits to be precise – last week, the organisation oversaw the first graduation of its first batch of start-ups for the 20-week Drone Start-Up Accelerator Programme, aimed at equipping the small-scale drone technology enthusiasts with the requisite knowhow to expand the adoption of drone technology in South Africa.

Chosen from an initial group of 40 applicants, the thirteen start-ups – Africa Drone Kings, Fade Communications, Ziyakhipa Projects and Services, Kurai, Nfazi Za Angani, QP Drone Tech, Rine Holdings, Shibus Constructions, KasieLabs, Mngwambani Security and Projects, Extol Jireh, Sovereign Ctreativz and Pragmatic Master – offer drone technology services to various industries that include media production, construction, security; and drone manufacture, maintenance and training.

Following their realisation that drones were the ultimate game changing technology in many an industry, Mzansi Aero sought to spread the knowledge and understanding of drones among South Africans by training enough start-ups to meet the expected demand. So they roped in the help of the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) and construction giant, Royal HaskoningDHV Southern Africa to train the first group of thirteen start-ups, beginning in February 2020.

Other partners also came on board, who included Ekurhuleni West TVET College, which provided the premises on which the lessons were conducted, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Besides co-sponsorship, Royal HaskoningDHV also chipped in with training and mentorship in technologies like data analytics and artificial intelligence, and helped the start-ups with marketing and real-world testing solutions development. Mentorship in business and project management was facilitated by facilitated by SEDA, the City of Ekurhuleni, the National Youth Development Agency, and United Drone Holdings.

“This has been a great learning journey for the start-ups, who were excited to pitch their ideas to investors who can help them scale their businesses,” says Victor Radebe, founder of Mzansi Aerospace Technologies. “Because of the Covid-19 lockdown, start-ups weren’t able to test their solutions or do market validations with customers – a key part of the programme – but we improvised with the webinar pitches, which were very well presented.

“Ironically, with Covid-19 shifting the programme to an online platform, it has given us an opportunity to expand our reach, and future programmes will adopt a dual approach that combines online and in-person engagement.”

For Royal HaskoningDHV, the Leading Professional for Partners and Governance, Gideon Treurnich said, “Despite the lockdown, we were still able to host training sessions for the start-ups, as planned, including a session on the use of drones in infrastructure asset management. We also included one of the start-ups in a client proposal to assist with drone photography in a factory setting. This inaugural programme was a massive success and we look forward to expanding our involvement in future programmes.

Treurnich added. “In many industries, drones enable us to break through new barriers in gathering and sharing real-time data, reducing costs, and increasing efficiency, safety, and security. We’re keen to help these start-ups understand how to service their future customers as best as possible as we move into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

The next phase of training will take place in Vhembe, Limpopo province, to the North of South Africa.


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