Winners of Zambian drone hackathon announced

Chitula Lukonde, the Information Technology and Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) Specialist at Zambia Flying Labs walked away with the grand prize from the just-ended Zambia Drone Hackathon Challenge, beating the final ten participants to grab first position.

The Drone Hackathon Zambia Challenge – which opened its doors in July to more than 160 Zambian youth hoping to make an impact in their country through drone technology – entered the final leg of its process to find the next UAV technology whizz kid with the hackathon proper, which started on August 24 and culminated in the celebration of Lukonde and two other challenges’ achievements on August 28.

In between the opening and closing days, the number of competitors was trimmed from the thirty who had made the initial grade, then to ten finalists, until only three stood in the final round – Lukonde, who came first, followed by TopView Protection Services’ Eric Chongo in second place, and James Mwakoi of Chitemwa Agro Solutions as the second runner up.

Still a student at the University of Zambia, Mwakoi’s organisation offers drone-based precision agriculture solutions to small scale farmers in Zambia, while Chongo’s company is involved with drone solutions in the security and protection sector.

Chitula Lukonde

Lukonde, meanwhile, was quite modest about his latest achievement, posting just two words on social media; “Another milestone!”

It is a milestone indeed, for a man passionate about using the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence to solve his country’s modern problems. Lukonde says he was drawn to drone technology after his research on telemetry systems, particularly in understanding and improving communication protocols used in Unmanned Aircraft Systems. His passion for science has kept firm his belief in technology as a tool for strengthening relationships, driving efficiencies and opens communication channels in local communities.

During the five-day hackathon, participants presented pitches and ideas for future growth of their start-ups in a bid to convince the judges. They also heard and learned from other trailblazers on the Zambian technology space, who included the Project Coordinator for Zambia Flying Labs and University of Zambia Lecturer, Kelvin Lungu, iDrone services founder Subi Thomas, and the Rose Funja, the founder of Tanzanian precision agriculture start-up, Agrinfo.

Topics discussed included the state of drone technology in Africa, drone applications in Zambia, drone regulations, drone flight skills, as well as lessons on how to make business pitches.

Each of the Top 3 winners will receive a DJI drone and they will learn how to grow their ventures further with BongoHive’s business accelerator program.

The Global Air Drone Academy, which facilitated the hackathon, also provided all the 30 finalists with resources like drone pilot training information, pre-flight safety checklists, flight log books, and a small drone for each participant, so they can continue to horn their drone skills.

The Maryland, USA based academy is already making solid steps towards holding similar programmes in other African countries, and is hoping to keep the support of US embassies and civil aviation authorities in these countries as it did in Zambia.

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