Wingcopter glides in for SA drone conference

German delivery drone maker and drone solutions provider Wingcopter has joined an all-star cast of experts who will share their experiences at 2021 edition of the Drones and Unmanned Aviation Conference in South Africa.

Scheduled for the 24th and 25th of June in Johannesburg, the annual conference explores emerging trends as well as commercial and humanitarian opportunities that drone technology has opened up in various industries that include health, insurance, agriculture, survey and mapping, policing and public safety, wildlife and environmental conservation, transportation; and many more industrial problems that drones have fixed.

And with the human race now fighting off the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic with an unprecedented worldwide vaccination programme, there has never been a better time for Wingcopter; an award-winning unmanned aviation start-up spreading its wings far in the world; to share the secrets to their success.

The company has seconded its Head of Humanitarian Programmes Andi Fisanich to headline this year’s event, which already has a heavyweight list of speakers from local organisations, which include the Drone Council of South Africa, Optron, UAV Aerial Works, Terreco Aviation, QP Drone Tech, The Eye Above and Ntiyiso Consulting.

Wingcopter has emerged one of the heroes of the difficult period of the COVID-19 pandemic, with its drones traversing vast distances to deliver vaccines and emergency medical supplies in many countries in Africa, including Malawi and Ethiopia.

The company will share its experiences at the conference, and hopefully help regulators and policy makers with the blueprints of how it overcame regulatory and policy framework issues to pave way for safe operations in the country it has operated in.  

“When we had disaster management issues in the region in 2018 – the fires in the Western Cape in South Africa, and the tropical storms that threatened flooding and destruction in Mozambique and Zimbabwe – we brought in a celebrated expert from the biggest drone manufacturer in the world to help disaster management professionals and policy makers understand how drones could help in these situations,” said one of the conference’s organisers, Jerry Davison, referring to the 2018 event which Romeo Durscher – then at DJI – made an appearance as the keynote speaker.

The Drones Conference is back

“Now, the COVID-19 disaster has been camped for more than a year on our doorsteps, trapping us indoors for much of the time it has been here, and disturbing our social and economic well-being. Drone technology has again come to the rescue in this regard, with East Africa leading the way, as delivery drones have been used to transport, first emergency medical supplies and COVID-19 equipment, then the vaccines in record times to areas that were previously hard to reach.

“Wingcopter has been perfecting its delivery drone technology for years, successfully carrying out several missions in Malawi, and working with reputable partners such as Merck, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, as well as parcel delivery conglomerates, UPS and DHL. Besides, the company has also been working with UNICEF to train drone professionals at the African Drone and Data Academy in Malawi.”

Wingcopter’s is indeed the kind of story we need right now. Their seconded guest speaker, Fisanich is a humanitarian proponent with a passionate advocacy for the #DronesForGood initiative, supported by her extensive experience working with the World Bank’s Africa Drone Business Challenge before she joined Wingcopter.

She was instrumental in her company joining forces with Flying Labs – a network of drone and robotics-based solutions providers in the Global South who are working to provide local solutions to local problems.

“The partnership with the Flying Labs Network fits perfectly in our vision to create efficient and sustainable drone solutions to improve and save lives everywhere,” Fisanich said at the time. “It is impressive what the Flying Labs have built up, with support from the WeRobotics team, cultivating local skills and capacities through access to new technologies, education, and job opportunities. I truly believe that strengthening supply chains with drones requires an active and supportive ecosystem that knows and involves their local communities. Together, we can establish a drone service for developing countries that allows its citizens to take the lead in building out this new industry and directly benefit from it.”

Andi Fisanich

Coming at a time when many countries in Africa are grappling with the conundrum of how to quickly dispense with the COVID-19 vaccines doses at their disposal, the conference organisers hope Wingcopter’s insights will help many an emergency services and health department understand how drones can be part of the solution, especially given that the do not need too much infrastructure to set up. Wingcopter’s drones, for instance, are electronic-Vertical Take Off and Landing machines that will take and land anywhere they are needed.

Zimbabwe has especially stood out as an interesting case study for drone integration — with its vaccine distribution programme inoculating only slightly above 36,000 essential workers by the end of March, having received their inoculations in February. The country is now sitting on more than one million vaccine doses, with no immediate plan on how to get them out to the people as fast as Ghana did with its own jabs, which it quickly disseminated with the help of Zipline drones that have been operating in the country since 2018.

“This year’s edition of the Drones and Unmanned Aviation Conference is a watershed event for the Southern African region,” reckons Davison. “We are in the middle of global pandemic in which drone technology has emerged as instrumental in more ways that just the emergency medical supply chain.

“We cheered as the South African government supported the birth of the drone council in the country, which was a massive step towards recognising the growing importance of drone technology. There are still issues to work out, which include regulations and speedy acquisitions of operating certificates, but it feels like the industry is finally on the right path in the region, and the gathering of drone professionals at the country will help clear things further.”

Davison confirmed that the organisers were working to bring in a few more big names to the event this year, which he was not at liberty to divulge at the moment; only saying that delegates to this year’s event should “get excited.”

Delegates wishing to join can check out this page for more details about registration.

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